Posted by John Morris Dixon, FAIA
The final speaker on Day Two was Will Bruder, the architect widely known for his Central Library in Phoenix, where he works, and other formally powerful buildings. He said that great design has its roots in local demands, illustrating the point with examples like the ruins at Chaco Canyon and the hemicycle house in Wisconsin by Frank Lloyd Wright.
He focused his talk on three projects from past, present, and future: his well-known library, which made his international reputation, a cluster of five townhouses -- one of which he lives in -- and a vast multiuse project, in early stages, for Arizona State University.
The library, conceived in 1990, had to be built on a tight budget and meet the severe demands of the local climate. Seeking the commission, he assembled a team to deal with energy and structure issues, starting with the Ove Arup firm, whose approach to integrated energy systems impressed him. With a focus on energy, the team came up with the concept of a central, economical “warehouse” for the books and readers, flanked on the east and west by “saddlebags” of support services, which would protect the core, environmentally. Glass walls to north and south would be shaded by two very different arrays of louvers. The copper sheet walls of the east and west “saddlebags” came in at $1 more per sq ft than Dryvit-type stucco.
Bruder showed an image of the entry sequence, which takes visitors down slight ramps from east and west doors into a “crystal canyon,” a space where cool air pool and subdued daylight penetrated through the roof and floor above. It is a remarkable refreshing introduction as people move in from the sun-baked surroundings.
By relying heavily on task lighting – even in the stacks – and introducing daylight through end walls and skylights, the design team managed a lighting power of only 1.2 watts/sq ft. The top-floor reading room has an unusual and visually elegant scheme of small circular skylights serving as “capitals” to tall, slim columns. It is amazing, says Bruder, what simple manipulation of light and shade can do. (Those of who have visited the library – during an earlier COD conference – know that firsthand.)
The 5-townhouse development benefited from Scottsdale’s incentives for green building – mainly offering faster approval of design. The careful control of openings here includes a “scrim” that doesn’t appear to obstruct views toward Camelback Mountain.
ASU’s Arts and Business Gateway project, in early design stages, will encompass about 2 million sq ft of mixed used, including new schools of business and fine arts, linking the campus to downtown Tempe. Bruder included many experts on his team, including architect Foster and Behnisch. Environment artist James Turrell will be involved in the design of an identifying tower for the project. Buildings here will have habitable rooftops, and the entire project will be topped with cloudlike canopies that will admit filtered sunlight. If built as now conceived, the project will be unique for its sustainability and its unprecedented form.
Bruder concluded by admitting that he recently taught a design studio at Yale where sustainability was not a requisite. Praising Mazria’s green education policy, Bruder swore that he would never do that again.