Architecture Week Brings Attention to Tucson Buildings

October 12, 2015

by Mariana Colín

Designed by Tucson's FORS Architecture, HUB Restaurant will be part of Saturday's Downtown walking tour.

Designed by Tucson’s FORS Architecture, HUB Restaurant will be part of Saturday’s Downtown walking tour.

When most people think of Tucson architecture, visions of ancient little adobe houses and desert-colored walls usually go through their minds. With all the beautiful and historic architecture we’ve borrowed from the past ages of Tucson, it’s easy to forget the prominence of more modern architecture in our everyday lives.

Fortunately, this week you’ll have the opportunity to get to know some of the great architecture of Tucson. Architecture Week, organized by AIA Southern Arizona, is a celebration of building in all forms and styles, which you’ll have the opportunity to explore with a series of tours, lectures, and demonstrations happening all week long. Saturday morning, Architecture Week officially started at Park Place Mall with the 6th annual charity event Canstruction, which saw groups of building teams construct huge sculptures purely out of food cans. The sculptures will be on display at Park Place all week, and will later be donated to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.

The Canstruction sculptures will be displayed all week at Park Place Mall.

The Canstruction sculptures will be displayed all week at Park Place Mall.

AIA Southern Arizona President Robert Miller looks at the event as an opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to get acquainted with the architectural beauty and history of the office buildings, restaurants, and shops they go in and out of every day, which otherwise might generally go unnoticed.

Even something as humble as a Circle K, he says, represents a long history of fascinating architectural design. “The original Circle K buildings in the early 50’s were really interesting,” he says, referring to design technologies imported from Germany that weren’t possible in America until Circle K, of all places, took the initiative. “It’s not anything heroic, but it’s really thoughtful architecture,” says Robert.

For Robert, Tucson’s architecture, both modern and classic, represents a growth in design potential and, by extension, provides an opportunity to define the image of the city, which is becoming more and more important as Tucson grows. Perhaps no part of Tucson displays this more than Downtown.

Barrio Viejo's adobe homes are a signature Tucson style.

Barrio Viejo’s adobe homes are a signature Tucson style.

“Everybody seems to recognize that the Streetcar has created an economic change that is allowing Downtown to become more dense,” says Robert.

He is optimistic about what the future of this development holds for Tucson’s cultural and economic image. “Tucson is going to be the sort of prototypical city that was a sprawl but turns itself into a really bikeable, walkable city” he says, drawing a parallel between Tucson now and the beginning of Austin’s economic boom.

All week, you’ll be able to see your city in a new light, through the eyes of architectural experts who “drive around all the time and think about these things,” as Robert puts it. Join a home tour of a mid-century house designed by Tucson architect Arthur Brown, a tour of the Smart Lofts apartments to learn what they’re doing to be environmentally responsible, or attend a lecture about Tucson architect Judith Chafee at the Tucson Museum of Art.

On October 17th, two tours will explore in-depth the style and history of Downtown’s architecture in particular. A tour with Downtown Tucson Partnership CEO Michael Keith will lead participants down Congress St. and South 6th Ave., stopping at locations such as Sparkroot and Johnny Gibson’s Market, and another walking tour will explore the historic and beautiful Barrio Viejo just south of Downtown. Both tours will end with drinks and discussion. For tickets, times, and more information about the AIA and Architecture Week, visit the AIA website.