The highly suggestive image that we have of Arizona in the USA is given by American literature and the numerous films set there: vast scenes, bright colours, dark shadows and rare vegetation. Fact is very similar to this image and the new architectural work has to face up to these strong features.

The project is in the town of Superior, to the southeast of Phoenix, Arizona, a small town that is important for its copper, silver and gold mines that have been working since the end of the 19th century.

The work involves renovating and extending an old two-storey building. The work can only be partly seen from the main road, that the town and the lovely Queen Creek Valley surround: it is a simple building with a protective sun roof – which can be really scorching here – and nothing more. The scenario is different though if you stop and go inside the building: a gigantic window frames the surrounding landscape and on the lower level you can fully appreciate the work that has been carried out: a building that has been shaped by the wind with straight clear sides and corners, as clear as the shadows that design it.

Three main passages guided the planners in their work: adding new buildings, making jutting portions and distorting the facades to highlight the views that are preferred.

The “pub-meeting centre” is called the “Social Condenser” with the hope that town social life will meet there, as used to happen in the public houses that the residents used to meeting in and talk about their work, ideas and sit and relax and enjoy the view.

The bottom floor houses the service rooms for the kitchen and larders, the top floor is for the guests and travellers with a single open area. The south face (on the top floor of the old building) has been removed, for two reasons: to give a 180° view of the surrounding landscape and to highlight the layout of the interiors from the outside – especially at dusk.

Only a few materials were used: metal cladding and wooden slats (the outer cladding follows a parabolic trend), steel bearing structure, large windows. The steel bearing frame for the extensions drastically reduced worksite time, and only increased the overall weight on the current foundations very little.

The distinction between the two parts of the intervention is marked by a path that leads down from the upper road to a wooden path that leads across the small valley.

Marina Cescon

Acciaio Arte Architettura N.32 – December 2007