Steel, Glass and Marvelous: A look at the biggest, best and most recognizable public and commercial buildings in Arizona
OK, so we don’t have the skylines of L.A., New York or Chicago. But for a state barely celebrating its first centennial, Arizona — Metro Phoenix in particular — is home to some fairly impressive commercial and public buildings.
Arizona doesn’t have the 110-story Chicago Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower) … but the Chase Tower in Downtown Phoenix looms as the tallest building in Arizona at 40 stories.
We don’t have New York’s swanky Plaza Hotel … but the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa — The Jewel of the Desert — is a world-famous travel destination.
The Los Angeles Coliseum? … Nope, we don’t have that either. But University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale already has played host to one Super Bowl and two BCS National Championship Games.
As part of AZRE’s Arizona Centennial Series, a look at the biggest, best and most recognizable public and commercial buildings in the state.
Best Sports Venue
University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale
Contractor: Hunt Construction
Architect: Peter Eisenman
Year built: 2006
One might say that the Arizona Cardinals scored when they found their new home in $455M University of Phoenix Stadium. With a multi-purpose design, the 63,400-seat stadium is host to not only football and soccer games, but to an array of events including motor sports competitions, trade shows and concerts. While the stadium may pride itself on its innovative versatility, the building’s design is equally as impressive. The exterior of the stadium, with alternating reflective metal panels and the iconic “Bird-Air” retractable fabric roof, was designed to replicate a barrel cactus. The interior features artistic elements including nostalgic photos and a series of murals representative of Arizona.
Chase Tower, Phoenix
Contractor: Henry C. Beck Co.
Architect: Welton Becket & Associates
Year built: 1972
Chase Tower certainly stands out in the Phoenix skyline with its modern use of glass, steel and concrete. This 40-story financial establishment was originally constructed for Valley National Bank, which after a series of mergers is today Chase Bank. In addition to its contemporary style, the tower strays from tradition with its underground, retail entry level, as opposed to the traditional commercial lobby space used in other buildings of its type. Aside from the tower’s primary use as an office space, Chase Tower offers restaurants, retail and, of course, banking services.
Oldest Commercial Building
Orpheum Theatre, Phoenix
Contractor: J.E. Rickards and Harry Nace (renovation by Huntcor, phases 1 and 2; Joe E. Woods, Inc., phase 3)
Architect: Lescher & Mahoney
Year built: 1929
As the only designated historic theater and last remaining example of theater palace architecture in the Valley, the fully restored Orpheum Theatre leaves little to the imagination when it comes to envisioning the grandeur of drama and cinema in America’s Golden Age. The original Spanish Baroque style theater was built by J.E. Rickards and Harry Nace as the final major construction project before the Great Depression. Once dubbed the “Grand Dame of Movie Theaters,” the Orpheum was originally intended for film and vaudeville performances. Though ownership of the theater has been passed down from Paramount to cinema aficionado James Nederlander to the City of Phoenix in 1984, its elegant, 1,364-seat Lewis Auditorium and glamorous marquee at Second and Adams prove that the “Grand
Dame” status has survived.
Best Hospitality Property
Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix
Architect and builder: Albert Chase McArthur
Year built: 1929
Albert Chase McArthur certainly called upon the teachings of his former instructor, Frank Lloyd Wright, when he designed “The Jewel of the Desert,” The Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa. The resort’s construction features McArthur’s signature concrete “Biltmore Block,” whose geometry mimics the surrounding palm trees. In its early days as the preferred resort of celebrities and heads of state, the Biltmore was owned by William Wrigley Jr. With expansions and renovations including two golf courses, a spa, the Paradise Guest Wing and Pool, ballrooms and additional meeting spaces, the resort retains its status of elite hospitality and one of the largest hotels in Arizona.
Best Government Building
Phoenix City Hall
Contractor: Hunt Construction Group
Architect: Langdon Wilson
Year built: 1993
In relation to its surroundings, and rising up 22 stories, Phoenix City Hall can be classified as one of the Valley’s few skyscrapers. The building, also called the Phoenix Municipal Building, replaced the Old City Hall, which was located in the Calvin C. Goode Municipal Building. The building is home the City of Phoenix and the origin of legislation regarding public safety, transportation, recreation and sustainability. Phoenix City Hall is the common stomping ground for the governments of the city’s eight districts.
Most Expensive Commercial Building
Contractors: The Weitz Company and Hunt Construction
Architect: Callison Architecture
Year built: 2010
The phrase “never a dull moment” is often reserved for people and places that provide some source of endless entertainment—and that’s exactly what CityScape offers. The $900M, mixed-use development hits the perfect balance of work and play with its collection of commercial towers, entertainment venues, retail and restaurants spanning two city blocks. The mixed-use facility may be one of the few places Valley residents and tourists can exercise, have a relaxing morning in Patriot’s Park, grab sushi or burgers for lunch, grocery shop, buy that new dress, attend a baseball game and finish the day off at a swanky restaurant or bar—all without getting in a car.
Best Medical Facility
Phoenix Children’s Hospital
Year built: 2011
The visual spectacle that is now the Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s new main building impacts countless drivers on State Route 51 with its lights and seamless architecture. And with the 11-story tower capable of serving 425 patients, the hospital hopes to impact equally as many children. With the new tower comes additional clinic space and operating rooms, a new Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and a separate Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit in response to the hospital’s successful Children’s Heart Center. The hospital’s recent makeover was not limited to the construction of the new tower, but included renovations to the existing buildings and new of satellite centers.
Best Public Building
Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix
Contractor: Ryan Companies US
Architect: RSP Architects
Year built: 2010
Former Target CEO and African art collector, Robert J. Ulrich, was inspired to found the Musical Instrument Museum after visiting a similar museum in Belgium. The museum’s modern design is meant to compliment its surrounding desert landscape. MIM’s interior features a tile path, “El Río,” that flows to connect each of the museum’s galleries, as well as structural lines designed to echo those of common musical instruments. The museum boasts a unique collection of 14,000 musical instruments from 200 countries, with an emphasis on those of Western origin and includes pieces which once belonged to music legends including John Lennon and Eric Clapton.
Biggest Commercial Building
Phoenix Convention Center
Architect: HOK Venue
Year built: 2008 (final phase)
Home to countless trade shows, conventions and formal events and weighing in at 1.9 MSF, the Phoenix Convention Center is among one of the largest of its kind. The many structures of the convention center are built with stones and materials native to Arizona and designed to emulate our southwestern landscape and culture. Each building combines innovation and tradition with state-of-the-art technology services for vendor presentations and art from nationally recognized artists that highlight Arizona’s cultural identity.
Most Recognizable Building
Biosphere 2, Tucson
Builder: Space Biosphere Ventures
Architect: Phil Hawes
Year built: 1987, 1991
Biosphere 2 is the much-anticipated sequel to the original biosphere made famous by years of evolution—Earth. The facility functions as a world within a world, separated from the outside by a 500-ton steel liner. Under its 6,500 windows and 7.2M cubic feet of sealed glass, self-sufficient ocean, wetland, grassland, desert and rainforest ecosystems thrive. In addition to the awe-inspiring glass dome structure, it includes the Technosphere basement floor and the Energy Center with electrical and plumbing services to maintain climate and living conditions within the dome. Biosphere 2, originally funded by a $30M gift from the Philecology Foundation, is now managed by the science program at the University of Arizona.