Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

The Arizona Center updated for human scale, Phoenix, Arizona



The Arizona Center is a combination retail/office space complex in downtown Phoenix, built in 1989, and for the past few years has been really showing its age. For the 1980s, it was state-of-the-art, but times, and expectations, have changed.

I was there today, August 25th of 2018, and while it's still very much in progress, at least you can walk around and take a look at what they're doing. And the redesign can be summed up in one word: shade.

Or rather, dappled shade, the kind of shade that you usually get from walking under trees, not the kind of shade from big buildings that makes an area just feel closed in. It was actually quite amazing to see, and feel, and it's something that they really hadn't taken into consideration in the 1980s, human scale. The dappled shade is created by the new overhangs.

Downtown Phoenix has been undergoing a transformation in the past decade, driven mostly by ASU. There are a lot more people walking around than I remember when I worked downtown in the '90s, and I'm inclined to say that there hasn't been much human scale activity in downtown Phoenix since the 1950s.

I like cars, and I'm interested in architecture, but I've realized that my two favorite cities, Los Angeles and Phoenix, became cities designed for cars, not people, starting after World War II. And as someone who likes to walk, I've seen what it's done to make people, of human size, feel like crawling ants clinging along the edge of a very dangerous place.

I've also lived in places with wonderful human scale, such as Santa Barbara, California. And it's amazing what happens when businesses cater to human beings, not just cars, people are suddenly walking around instead of spending all of their time in traffic, and looking for parking spots. It's quite wonderful.

And since I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I've been crazy mad for places that I could comfortably sit outside, without rain, and snow. Phoenix is absolutely unlivable because it's so hot in the summer (which lasts five months) but for the rest of the year it's absolutely glorious. People come from all over the world just to enjoy the weather from October to April. And without design that's human scale, and that integrates shade, it's a terrible waste. It's always made me sad to see nothing but harsh and glaring concrete, no shade, no trees, and no place for people.

I like what they're doing at the Arizona Center.

Image at the top of this post: The Arizona Center on August 25th, 2018, 3rd Street between Van Burn and Fillmore, Phoenix, Arizona. You're looking north.

Design for the Arizona Center in 1985, Phoenix, Arizona. Skyscrapers, geometric patterns, and no consideration for human scale.


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