Arizona Sonora Desert Museum Restaurant and Gallery Complex

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum Restaurant and Gallery Complex

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Tucson, Arizona

Can a building communicate a lesson to those who use it? The answer is "yes" in this 20,000 sf. restaurant, gift shop and special events complex at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona.

At the world renowned zoo visited by more than 600,000 people annually, Line and Space created an exhibit on appropriate desert architecture that relies on environmental response as its primary determinant instead of a prescribed Southwestern image. Appropriate materials and an understanding of the climate and land play an important role in the organic relationship that welds structure to earth – how the building touches the sky determines visual success. This is particularly true at the Desert Museum where the mission is to teach not only the wonders of biological complexity and diversity, but the meaning of good desert citizenship. To convey this message, the project integrates many environmentally sensitive ideas such as recycling, tempered microclimates for outdoor dining areas, proper orientation, and transitions between interior and exterior to prevent harsh visual and thermal shocks.  Grey water harvesting and reuse demonstrates a symbiotic relationship between the building and earth.

Light and space must be part and parcel of the architectural image. This idea is exemplified at the entry to the complex, where an overhead lattice tempers the harsh sun and creates a dynamic dance of shadow, while framing an incomparable distant view.  It is this type of glorification of the desert that is sought, creating a place that gently says "welcome to an adventure".

In addition to architect, Line and Space acted as builder, constructing the project. It has been included in the Smithsonian Institution’s tours of Arizona Architecture and has received numerous design awards from the American Institute of Architects.

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