Creative Image & Contextual Resonance:
The Tempe Center for the Arts (TCA) is a unique collection of intimate venues within an iconic, protective envelope. Underneath the flight path of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, the sculptural shed roof not only provides the first level of acoustic protection, but also shelters its patrons and performers from the harsh desert sun. The roof is multi-referential, with inspiration from: monument valley; nearby Hayden butte; origami; and even stealth fighter design.
The roof’s faceted form drapes over the independent 600-seat Proscenium Theater, including its fly tower, the 200-seat Studio Theater, the visual arts gallery and a common lobby. The individual venues are clustered to form and activate a lobby emulating a town square. The semi-circular, protective assemblage of Pueblo Bonito at Chaco canyon inspired the building’s organization. Similar to Pueblo Bonito’s south orientation adjacent to the trade route and once flowing river, TCA is oriented north adjacent to Tempe Town Lake with views to nearby and distant landforms that punctuate the valley.
TCA optimizes its location at the northwest gateway to Tempe with its 360 degree landmark architecture anchoring the west end of Tempe Town Lake. Acknowledging its location in the Sonoran desert, the architecture responds with a relatively opaque sculptural composition on the south, east and west orientations while becoming quite transparent on the north. Various locations around the building allude to how rainwater flows from the roof, similar to the way arroyos deliver rivers of rain across the desert floor.
TCA was designed as a 100-year building and many strategies were implemented during design to address building efficiency and sustainability goals. A key challenge for the design team was to solve the overhead flight noise problem while maintaining energy efficiency for the entire facility. A further challenge was to meet programmatic requirements; the building operates as a theater and gallery but also serves as a public gathering space and extension of the waterfront park network, maintains operating hours of up to 16 hours a day–up to four times the operational hours of other theaters nationwide.
The design of the shed roof, which acts as an insulator for flight noise and a canopy/shading element for smaller, pavilion units that comprise the gallery, theaters, offices, etc. within. This idea of individually controlled spaces allows for maximum control of HVAC usage during long days during which spaces are often dormant.
Functional Operations of Backstage Spaces & Audience Spaces:
The building’s circular design permits access from all sides and allows users to “sense the volume” of the building. The circulation of public and backstage spaces is well integrated with two central “streets” through the building – one front of house and one back of house – and three “alleys” running between the performance spaces to connect the front and back of house streets.
The public and performance spaces come together along a main street (the lobby) that runs through the building successfully creating a gathering place. On this main street is located the Theater, the Studio, a bar/lounge, the Gallery, a multipurpose room, as well as access to the outdoor plaza and infinity pool overlooking Town Lake.
Entrances to the mezzanine and balcony levels of both the main theater and studio are exposed to the lobby, creating a multi-level street scene and accentuating the idea that the theater is a place to see and be seen. The large entry doors of the studio and gallery open to the lobby in such a way that they create larger function spaces suitable for receptions, conferences, meetings, dinners and additional gallery exhibition space.
The efficient stage door design provides direct but secure access to the administrative offices, the performers’ lounge, the main back of house street and close access to the front of house. The efficient design allows all these connections to be monitored by a limited staff.
Exploration in New Technologies:
Half of the floor area of the studio theatre is formed by NIVO flex®–Airstage platforms within a recessed pit. The platforms can be adjusted to a variety of heights, from six feet above the surrounding floor to three feet below, allowing the theatre to quickly and easily adapt to flat floor, thrust, arena, end stage, or cabaret configurations. Unlike conventional solutions, the NIVO flex® platforms do not require additional storage, intensive labor, or complicated machinery to change configurations. While it is typical for NIVO flex® platforms to be used as seating platforms, this application is innovative.
TCA is a facility built by the community for the community with local arts groups expected to provide more that 75% of the overall programming. The center’s size, scale and intimacy were carefully considered to foster and nurture the arts in one of the valley’s most progressive cities. Along with its outdoor sculpture court, art park and lakeside café, the lobby was conceived as a dramatic city room which is open daily to the public, allowing each venue to operate independently while sharing a public space. Back of house services were distributed so that a wedding could be happening in the lakeside room while simultaneously, a gallery opening and symphony could also be occurring.
Projects Credits and Details:
Engineer: Arup (Los Angeles) – Structural, Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing
Civil/Survey/Site Structural Engineering: Stantec (Phoenix)
Theater Design & Planning: Theatre Projects Consultants (United States)
Acoustical: Arup Acoustics (San Francisco)
Lighting: Arup Lighting (San Francisco)
Landscape: Design Workshop (Tempe)
Geotechnical Engineer: GEC/SAB (Phoenix)
Signage and Graphics: AdamsMorioka (Beverly Hills)
Life Safety/ADA: Rolf Jensen Associates (Phoenix/Washington DC)
Fire Protection: Arup Fire (Los Angeles)
Cost Consultant: Davis Langdon Adamson (Los Angeles)
Hardware Consultant: Finish Hardware Technology (Los Angeles)
Building Envelope Consultant: Simpson Gumpertz Heger, Inc. (San Francisco)
Project Management: Kitchell CEM (Phoenix)
Artists: Entry Marquee: Ned Kahn (Sebastopol, CA); Fountain Reflections: Ned Kahn (Sebastopol, CA); “True North” Fireplace: Mayme Kratz and Mark Ryan (Phoenix); Lobby Carpet: Ramona Sakiestewa (Santa Fe, NM); “Aurora” Outdoor Sculpture: Brower Hatcher (Rhode Island)
General Contractor: Okland Construction Company, Inc. (Tempe)
All material courtesy of the Architects