August 08, 2011

Phoenix Landmarks…?

by: Ryan Glass


Today’s post is by contributing writer Ryan Glass:

This past 12 months I’ve been blessed with a reason to travel overseas and tour some fantastic cities.  Having seen a number of castles, cathedrals, bridges, parks and rail stations, I am most grateful for an expanded sense of how public spaces can both succeed and fail.

That said, the first question friends & colleagues ask when I return is always “how was your trip? what was  (city)  like?”.  Inevitably, most people want to hear about the landmark places they expect you to go; “Oh, you were in London?  Did you see Big Ben?”.  (No, lady, I missed a 316ft tall clock tower. C’mon!)

So that led me to thinking, what is Phoenix’s landmark building?  Where is our world-class example of architecture/design to show off to the world?

Sure, we’ve got ballparks, resorts, convention centers, and a whole lot of single-family detached housing, but nobody going to pose for a snapshot in front of those.

A quick, less-than-scientific Google search for famous/landmark buildings in Phoenix gave me the following list:

  • Westward Ho
  • Arizona Capitol
  • Heritage Square
  • Wrigley Mansion
  • Burton Barr Library

Now I know that when we think of truly landmark buildings in other cities, they are typically grand old religious or government buildings.   Even New York and Chicago have massive monuments to capitalism and the way the “American Dream” shaped our idea of what a great city looks like.  Comparably, that list above doesn’t particularly make me want to brag about our city and the great things to see when you visit.

Personally, my favorite building is the Security building in Downtown. The arched windows on the 8th floor observation deck and brick facade always make me wonder what it looked like in it’s prime. Plus the panoramic view of downtown is one of my favorites. That said, I’ve still never suggested anyone go check out the building on it’s own.

So while we are discussing the future of the LRT, new freeways, connecting disparate communities and deciding whatever that sculpture over Civic Space Park really looks like, perhaps we can turn up the dialogue about what really stands out and what provides a specifically “Phoenix” identity.

Photo Credit: The Security Building in Downtown Phoenix. Photo by Steve Minor.

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10 Responses

  1. Andrew Knoc says:

    I have high hopes that the jellyfish (“Her Secret is Patience”) will attain status as a Phoenix icon, with time. It’s striking, unique, and highly visible.

    I agree that the Security Building has a lot of charm.

    When I’m taking visitors or newly-minted Phoenicians around downtown, I’m usually taking them to Hanny’s. On the way, I point out the Chase tower. It’s notable not just b/c of what it is (Arizona’s tallest building) but b/c of what it isn’t: it’s nowhere near the height of skyscrapers in other cities. In my mind, it provides an interesting footnote to Phoenix’s history as a city without a lot of corporate headquarters.

  2. I vote for the Phoenix Financial Center, the office building at Central & Osborn in Midtown that looks like an old computer punch card. Jason Hill captured it best:

  3. Will Novak says:

    I agree with David, the Phx Financial Center to me is a seminal “Phoenix” building. Its futuristic yet modern, its a very “optimistic” looking building, it fits Phoenix well. Its also fitting because like so many PHX towers it had a planned twin that never happened.

    I do think the block that contains the Security Building is the best urban block in PHX though.

    While not architecture, Paul Coze did a lot of public art work that helped developed a distinct Phoenix style. It respected our Western and Native past while still being modern. Sadly a lot of his work is gone or not often seen by the public (like his lovely murals at the Madhouse on McDowell which are usually only seen at State Fair time). I hope someday when the Airport replaces its older buildings his grand mural will be moved to P.A.M.

  4. Lisa Parks says:

    This is so timely, since I just had this same discussion with my husband last night! While we may have some buildings that a few fellow Phoenicians might consider to be landmarks, it’s sad that many don’t even know about these places. And I’m sure there are no landmark buildings that anyone outside of Phoenix associates with our city. I guess we’ll have to do something to change that!

  5. Wayne says:

    When I travel I enjoy homestays in the cities and in the countryside…..going to work and hanging with where ever the people are….enjoy the folks more than the buildings….However I think that ours is yet to come and my guess it will be the LRT, it is beautiful now and as it expands it will be more so. The unique development that will evolve around it that will use it will be something that will be conceptually new….and based in the future….ours is a oppotunity and it will happen.

  6. Danny Hoover says:

    My vote goes to the Luhrs Tower. I love the gothic look it presents. The old city court house between Washington and Jefferson, across from city hall, comes in second. On a side note, I work in the Phoenix Financial Center which is mentioned in other posts.

  7. Jonce says:

    Great piece! I would like to throw my favorite PHX building in the ring, the Luhrs Tower. Very art deco and even had a cameo in the 1960 film Psycho.

  8. Brian says:

    One thing that always strikes me is how you see so many scenic postcards available in the European cities. There are dozens, if not hundreds of landmark buildings, bridges, and plazas. I think you can learn a lot about a city through its postcards.
    Can you imagine finding a postcard showcasing Bell Rd & 32nd street? How about a postcard of Cactus and Tatum? Of course not!
    For the size of this urban area, there are barely any buildings or plazas which a tourist would pose for a photo.
    Thankfully we have the remnants of the Sonoran Desert.

  9. […] August I wrote about “what is Phoenix’s landmark building”, and my questioning what it was that people would think of a snapshot-worthy sites in our fair […]

  10. […] more than ever before; the opportunity to see the same things that draw me to the old bricks of the Security Building transposed over entire neighborhoods in older […]

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