Southern Arizona Visitors Center

Southern Arizona Visitors Center


Tucson, Arizona

As possibly America’s oldest continuously settled community, Tucson is a city fiercely proud of its culture reborn, holding onto history, community and tradition while looking enthusiastically to the future. It is very important to integrate these ideas into the Visitor Center, a building that will serve as a symbol for Tucson and the region where tourists as well as natives can learn about Southern Arizona and the ecology of the Sonoran Desert.

The form of the building is bold and spirited, yet familiar and timeless to the people of the area. From the west, the Visitor Center rises dramatically from the ground with a twelve foot thick wall of basalt, mined at a local, historic quarry. This is an allusion to the thick stone Presidio Wall that once surrounded Tucson when the city was no more than an outpost on the western edge of the American frontier. The copper expanse of roof symbolizes one of Arizona’s most important industries; copper mining.

The building is designed to be a wedge growing out of the earth, its height rests between the high-rises and small one story homes in the surrounding neighborhoods. It is transitional in scale and creates a bridge between the visual extremes of downtown Tucson.

As a demonstration of how to build in the desert, the Visitor Center combines natural materials, correct solar orientation, shade and water harvesting. It teaches respect for its fragile desert environment while it acknowledges a vibrant cultural past that was an important precursor to an optimistic future.

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