Boyce Thompson Arboretum Visitor Center

Boyce Thompson Arboretum Visitor Center


Superior, Arizona

Colonel William Boyce Thompson decided in the early 1920’s to establish and endow an Arboretum in Superior, Arizona – a declared determination to “build the most beautiful and most useful desert garden of its kind in the world". Over the years his dream that the Arboretum "be for the benefit of all mankind" has become a reality. Set in a rugged land of legend and natural beauty, his Arboretum is one of the oldest botanical and research gardens in the American West.

The 10,000 sf. Visitor Center introduces guests to the Arboretum's unusual botanical collections and interpretive programs. The project straddles the historic main trail, using it as the conceptual organizer for a series of functions, which include ticket and plant sales, a gift shop, administrative offices, interpretative displays, and public restrooms. A concrete roof grid (a slab-less waffle slab) unifies the project while offering flexible environmental control.  Indoor and outdoor spaces flow naturally into one another. Concrete and stone walls penetrate into spaces while wood ceilings and brick floors extend to exterior space.

The project demonstrates how to work in harmony with our wonderful desert surroundings. Usability of exterior space was extended through shading, exterior cooling, and heating. The Visitor Center has become a nationally recognized facility, pioneering the development of tempered micro-climates, and has received the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment/ACSA Award.

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