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Arizona's vant-garde architecture.

"The first thing visitors do when they enter the [Tempe Municipal] building is look up" said Jennifer Adams, facilities operations manager for the city of Tempe, Ariz. "It really has that 'wow* effect"

Constructed in 1970, the 17,650-square-foot, three-story, solar-bronzed glass and steel inverted pyramid appears part Egyptian, part space age--a timeless yet radically modern design that differentiates this city hall from any building in Arizona, and even the world.

"It was controversial then, and it is controversial probably even today," said Elmer Bradley, former Mayor of Tempe from 1968 to 1970, of the Tempe Municipal Building.


"This site has been the site of the Tempe city government since at least the 1920s," said Mark C. Vincent, AIA, AICP, NCARB, city architect and preservation manager of the city of Tempe community development, in Tempe. "The building that we see today replaced a 1920s neoclassical style building that not only contained city offices, but the fire department, library and courts."


Vincent said that City Hall's architect, Michael Goodwin, of Michael & Kemper Goodwin Ltd. strose to design a building that had complete respect for the Arizona sun, an open space vista at the heart of the site, open citizen access and community integration.

In addition, before plans were drawn up for the new City Hall, rumor has it that former Mavor Bradley asked that offices for elected officials and the city manager he located on the top floor, while support staff and people-oriented services occupy the lower floors in order to make them handy to the public. Designing a structure that could honor each of these criteria was no easy task.

"[Goodwin] said that the idea came to him while he was taking a shower one morning" said Vincent. "When he saw the sunlight streaking across the shower door at a forty-five degree angle, he started drawing on the condensation on the shower door, in kind of a 'eureka, I've got it!', moment"

The resulting structure is nothing less than amazing: the inverted pyramid--with walls extending at a 45-degree-angle, and measuring 45-feet per side--keeps direct sunlight from striking the glass, thus achieving maximum sun in the winter and minimum heat in the summer.

In addition, the upside-down pyramid shape acts as an umbrella that protects administrators, as well as the below-grade courtyard and adjacent offices, from the Arizona sun.

Complementing the design, the building's steel frame helps to support thick panes of glass, which are engineered for flexibility, heat and cold tolerance.


The early 1970s was a time when oil supplies were low and prices were high as a result of the Arab-Israeli War of 1973 and OPEC-imposed oil embargo, resulting in country-wide pressure to reduce energy costs.

Quite possibly, the unusual and outlandish design--which went on to receive the Award of Excellence from the American Institute of Steel Construction, in 1971, and the Award of Merit from the Western Mountain Region of the American Institute of Architects in 1972--is as energy efficient today as it was when it was first built. Most recently, in 2009, the City of Tempe received an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for an energy audit and retrofits for City Hall.

"New energy-efficient lighting, HVAC controls and upgrades, occupancy sensors and computer power management were installed," said Grace DelMonte Kelly, Energy & Project Manager for the City of Tempe.

"In addition to saving nearly $30,000 annually in energy costs, the upgrades helped to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent, which cut carbon emissions by 206 metric tons--the equivalent of removing 40 cars from the road each year."

Adams added that City Hall has a two-mile-long, automated, quick-response water chiller system that supports four buildings: a human resources and financial sources building, police department, Tem-pe Performing Arts Center (TPCA) and jail headquarters.

"What keeps the mayor cool and the City Council members cool, keeps the jails cool. They're sharing their air," said Adams.


The Tempe Municipal Buildings unique shape, progressive design and downtown location helped transform downtown Tempe, serving as what Goodwin calls a "lantern to the city," and directing hundreds of thousands of tourists and residents to downtown Tempes stores, restaurants and entertainment destinations annually.

Adams said that people frequently ask for directions to the "upside-down building," which has become quite a landmark in Tempe. Vincent added that the buildings "strikingly modern design" has certainly withstood the test of time.

"[The Tempe Municipal Building]," said Vincent, "conveys the idea that government is for the peo-pie and open to the people."


by Mariana Toscas, MFA
COPYRIGHT 2012 National Association of Realtors
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Title Annotation:Famous Properties
Author:Toscas, Mariana
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1U8AZ
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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