The design team was challenged to create a new life for a 60-year old church campus in central Phoenix along a busy well-traveled road that connects Phoenix to Scottsdale. The local design studio of debartolo architects assessed the existing structure and determined that there were three masonry structures that were covered over with years of stucco and paint, but if exposed might offer a new life for the weathering structure. Their architectural response is conveyed in two simple strategies:
Strategy one, remove all non-essential elements to reveal the essence and pure simplicity of the three existing masonry structures.
This seemingly simple strategy required decisive research to determine the essential elements of the structure (both inside and out). Surgical demolition and abrasive blasting of the structures revealed three different types of masonry, laid in both stack and running bond. The natural colors of the buildings revealed themselves as the layers of paint were removed; exposing masonry units with dense black scoria and the pale red of hollow core brick. The proportions of the outdoor spaces between the buildings was discovered by a rigorous process of demolition and removal. (Nearly 1,000 square meters was demolished) Left with three, simple rectangular structures, the program of worship space, classrooms and administration was efficiently and carefully distributed.
Strategy two, deploy a singular new device - in this case a perforated shade scrim - to create identity, community and delight.
The shade scrim accomplishes the following goals. 1. Creates a new identity for a nondescript building on one of the major streets in Phoenix without depending on signage. 2. Protects the un-insulated masonry structures from the harsh desert sun to reduce the solar gain on the building. 3. Shades a community gathering space which functions as a lobby for the church that seats 300. 4. Connects the three buildings components along the new outdoor spine.
The combination of new and old has created a unique environment of material richness and lightness. The gathering space adjacent to the street is protected by a series of in-ground gabion walls along with native trees that add shade and life to the development. This community gathering space serves as an 'outdoor lobby' that offers visual cues to the city while engaging the church members into the community. Successful on several levels, the new structure is distinctive while also being rooted and of the place. Once inside, wood scrims continue the veiling approach where efficient spaces, common materials and the logical flow of spaces is both pragmatic and poetic creating a memorable and highly functional interior and exterior experience.
The studio of debartolo architects is dedicated to architectural excellence, gaining a reputation for creating essential architecture through the innovative use of materials with restraint and simplicity. For over 20 years, the built work reveals a deeply rooted desire to bring significance and order into the daily experience, through their unique ability to distill the most critical aspects and eliminate the unnecessary. Named AIA Arizona Firm of the Year, debartolo architects strives for the essence at every scale, focused on rigorous sensitivity and rationalism with simplicity and order that is specific to place, site and function.