the ugliest building in phoenix / by Christoph Kaiser

For years I have affectionately referred to the building on the northwest corner of 3rd Street and Roosevelt as 'the ugliest building in Phoenix'.  And while it is probably not THE ugliest building we have, it sits at what I regard as the northern gateway to our downtown core, an intersection you would hope would meet patrons with a greater sense of threshold - so the pressure is on.  Instead it’s a limp, dirty sock in your face as you speed towards our burgeoning metropolis - dirt fields, mirrored windows, dust colored split-faced block and a beige electrical transformer, precisely where a stunning public art piece with some stature and glow should be.  Change is in the works however.  A seven-story commercial/residential building called Roosevelt Point recently started construction on the south side of the street, there is buzz about a shipping container project on the northeast corner, and a streetscape revitalization project that will improve our sidewalks, street lights, and landscape from 3rd Street to 3rd Avenue along Roosevelt is presently under review. 

Part of my business in the architecture and design world is visualization - to envision what should be, and communicate that vision.  I Dream of Phoenix is a journal of big ideas to improve our city, and while the building at 3rd Street and Roosevelt is not a game changer in itself, it’s latent potential is representative of a great many buildings that make up our urban fabric.  I want to show that it, and many buildings like it,can be given new life, radically transformed by low cost, high impact moves – what I call ‘appliqué’.  The proposed design depicted in these images transforms the three story 1970’s office building into a 12 unit condo project with prime views into downtown Phoenix.  A thin, single-story commercial band wrapping the site’s perimeter serves to create a defined and active street edge, and to provide a semi-public pocket park at the heart of the project.  A pay-n-take Laundromat, and small restaurant/beer garden are shown occupying the commercial band. 

To make the point again, I’ve included a second example of transformative, low-cost, high-impact moves, proposed for a 1960’s building at 12th street and Highland.  The project is part of a larger adaptive reuse initiative called Link, by Chris Nieto of Nieto Development, and is a good example of latent beauty brought to the surface by deletion.  Our study revealed a beautiful midcentury precast concrete roof structure beneath layers of mansard roof, terra cotta tile, signage and stucco.  A second design iteration shows a perforated metal skirt providing shade and privacy for the suites.