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GROWTH: The untapped architectural depth emerging in downtown Phoenix

photo of downtown Phoenix
About 10,000 years ago we emerged from seeing the utility of caves as sole shelter and began constructing free-standing structures and as civilization evolved structures for shelters became illustrations of the latest technology available throughout recorded history. (Digital AI Illustration/DigitalFreePress)

Libeskind sees architectural oasis sprouting in downtown Phoenix

By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

Form. Function. Utility. Beauty.

All of those words by themselves can shape the image of a structure in the mind’s eye, but for the brain-trust of Libeskind Studio Design —- an international architectural firm —- making those ideas and themes come together can create an undeniable sense of space.

The sense of space is everything to Lev Libeskind.

“That is the question of modern architecture,” he told the Arizona Digital Free Press earlier this month. “Architecture is always thought of as mere functionality — a huge machine to keep an urban machine going, but architecture in its origin, and its essence, it is an art.”

Historians agree about 10,000 years ago human beings emerged from seeing the utility of caves as sole shelter and began constructing free-standing structures and as civilization evolved structures for shelters became illustrations of the latest technology available throughout recorded history.

Mr. Libeskind says downtown Phoenix is quietly become an architectural destination.

“Today, the focus of architecture is primarily based on function with little consideration for design or true sense of space,” he said while responding to questions on a call from Italy. “But when you look back at history, the really important and major temples, important buildings of an any community, they are all about beauty and how to shape space. It really expresses what it means to be at a place.”

Creating a sense of place in downtown Phoenix

The city of Phoenix — and its urban core — is, in the grand scheme of things, young, Mr. Libeskind explains.

“I think when you look at downtown Phoenix, it being a young city, it compares with other U.S. cities of the southwest and doesn’t really have too many unique structures,” he said. “Up until the last 10 years with ASU moving into downtown there was not a whole lot happening — there is a lot of infill opportunity.”

One of those infill opportunities has been coined, ‘Manzana,’ which is found part of the Roosevelt Row whereas the contemplated structure will span nearly 105,000-square feet and rise 83 feet with eight stories. Also, Manzana will include 68 residential units amid a mix of retail and multifamily spaces.

“A sense of place to live your lives,” Mr. Libeskind said. “A sense of community and a sense of belonging is really something that has been missing from Phoenix as a whole. The opportunity is really there in downtown Phoenix.”

Zac Cohen, Phoenix managing partner at Libeskind Studio Design, says architecture is an ensemble of the illustrations of life — and when done right a sense of space can help forge community.

“Bringing community together in open space and creating structures that enhance those experiences at scale is what we are talking about,” he said. “What I love most about architecture is it is an ensemble art form — you have all of these people working together — the people who are going to use that building, live and work in and around that building together. That is part of the process.”

For Mr. Cohen, architecture is a language that ought to speak to people on a visceral level.

“It has to be able to speak to the average person who lives here, the urban rush of the city,” he said. “We are focused on creating the highest quality building as possible.”

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