Sonoran Desert Vernacular by CO Architects

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CO Architects studied the Sonoran Desert to create a new urban vernacular for Phoenix. (Bill Timmerman)

CO Architects studied the Sonoran Desert to create a new urban vernacular for Phoenix. (Bill Timmerman)

Red-rock mountains and the saguaro cactus inspired the Health Sciences Education Building’s rippling copper facade.

Downtown Phoenix, observed CO Architects’ Arnold Swanborn, looks a lot like downtown Minneapolis. That feels wrong, given the two cities’ contrasting environments. So when it came to designing the Health Sciences Education Building (HSEB) at Phoenix Biomedical Campus (which won honorable mention for facades in AN’s Best of Design Awards), CO Architects went back to nature—to the Sonoran Desert in particular. “We’re building in a desert. We really, in the outset, wanted to understand what it’s like to build in a desert environment, to really go back and investigate the people who first moved there, or even some of the [American] Indians who lived [there],” said Swanborn. “The skin is really a response to some of the lessons we learned from going out to the desert, being out there and seeing how plants and animals adapted to that environment.” Read More

SmithGroup′s ASU Facade: Kovach

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Friday, May 27, 2011
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The facade includes six copper panel types (Liam Frederick)

Articulated copper clads gateway building to new College of Nursing in Phoenix

Copper has certain attributes that make it an appealing facade option in arid climates. The first is that it doesn’t turn green. “Here in the desert, it weathers like a penny in your pocket,” said Mark Kranz, the SmithGroup Phoenix design principal in charge of the recently completed Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation Phase II project. Clad in an articulated and partially perforated copper skin, the 84,000-square-foot, five-story facility complements a collection of existing and new buildings that form the college’s new Phoenix campus. This month, the project won a 2011 North American Copper in Architecture Award, earning points not only for the identity it imparts to the campus, but also for a unique panel design that delivers environmental performance at a low cost.

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