Buildings We Love: the Phoenix Art Museum

Posted on by Lauren M

There’s something about museums that often lends the typology to well-articulated and engaging architecture…  Whether it’s the somewhat transitory nature of how users inhabit these civic institutions, or more specifically, the intrinsic relationship between the art and the spaces in which they are displayed, we often find ourselves admiring the building as much as the artwork inside!  

However, in some instances of well-known architecturally significant museums, the structure dominates and potentially distracts from its primary function of providing a space for paintings, sculpture and multimedia exhibits.  So, when we come across a contemporary museum whose design features are architecturally engaging, yet subtle enough to allow the art to stand on its own, it inevitably becomes the subject of a series of our own photographs, often inspired by what we experience inside.


The Phoenix Art Museum is one such space, and it not only performs its function well, but relates to the unique context of the Southwest desert through the incorporation of appropriate materials, shading devices, and landscape design.  An 10,000 square foot entry courtyard with a grid of sculptural trees provides the main access to the interior, with a deep overhang for solar protection and a linear water feature that creates movement and a sense of coolness in the Arizona heat.


Originally opened in 1959, the museum has undergone a series of renovations, the most recent by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, which included a site redesign and the inclusion of the entry court, as well as additional gallery spaces.  The resulting design tied the existing to the new to create ‘a series of interior experiences with art, enlivened by occasional visual connections to the landscape.’ 


For more information on the museum, the exhibits and how to get there, visit the Phoenix Art Museum's website.