Scottsdale Museum of the West / Jones Studio


Engaging. Sophisticated. Pragmatic. Timeless. These qualities are essential to the architectural concept for the new Scottsdale Museum of the West designed by Jones Studio. Coupled with an imaginative and stimulating exhibit experience, guests will find a building that embodies the idea of the Old West meeting the New West.

Ground Level Plan

To create a memorable, signature design for the New West, Jones Studio first looked to the Old West for inspiration. Here, a straw cowboy hat becomes a visual metaphor for a building shaded from the sun. Studying ancient Native-American cliff dwellings, and learning from their wisdom and mindful use of materials. They were influenced by the giant, perfectly stacked wood piles typical of saw mills found in the old west and also by images of buildings in Old West towns, as well as images of ranches with beautiful old barns, where streaming sunlight might illuminate a shady interior.


Jones Studio was guided by the essential qualities of these places, and went searching for innovative materials that would help them realize a New West building that has the same zest and confidence as these Old West examples. After researching they found a material that is the embodiment of the Old West transforming into the New. A composite board of recycled plastic and saw dust, with an uncanny ability to bend, will softly weather and provide the with a tough, durable, maintenance-free skin for a lifetime. As the skin wraps around the building, it pushes out and opens up, allowing sunlight to penetrate spaces that are not light sensitive. This board also has the visual characteristics of the old barn and western town. It is both familiar and new at the same time – the Old West meeting the New West.


The building is designed to be approached from many directions. Emphasis is placed on a “human scale” ground plane experience that is both welcoming and engaging to the downtown visitor. Arriving from the east, the guest is greeted by a large covered “front porch” and an outdoor gathering space adjacent to the interior lobby. As the front entry recedes from the street, it offers respect to an existing visual connection through the site to the adjacent transit station and its dynamic clock tower. If arriving from the existing underground parking garage to the west, the guest ascends an existing stair shaded by the new building. Emerging from below, they are greeted by a vibrant plaza activated by a new museum cafe and retail shop. The west entry to the museum is at the opposite end of the plaza.


The covered, 3-story south facing exterior atrium will welcome every guest. Shade and shadow characterize this space. Guests will experience the calming sound of moving water. Looking up, they’ll see the exciting galleries above.


The design team plans on setting an architectural precedent for environmental responsibility in a New West building. In the Old West, the sun was used to grow crops. In the New, we “grow” electric power. At the Scottsdale Museum of the West, a wonderful roof terrace/sculpture patio will be shaded by a canopy of energy producing photovoltaic panels. In the Old West, water was a precious commodity – conserved and respected. This New West building will have the same attitude toward water. The entire roof will channel rain and equipment condensate to an underground storage tank, creating a small, soothing entry fountain, and irrigating the surrounding landscape.

Architect: Jones Studio
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
Design Team: Eddie Jones (Lead Designer), Neal Jones (Principal-In-Charge), Brian Farling, Melissa Farling, Aaron Forbes
Consultants: BRC Imagination Arts, Museum Exhibit Design Consultants
Project Area: 48,000 SqFt
Project Year: 2008

Cite: Lopez, Oscar. "Scottsdale Museum of the West / Jones Studio" 17 Aug 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 May 2015. <>
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  • Oscar Lopez

    How does the concept of visual metaphor work for Jones Studio’s proposed Scottsdale Museum for the West, here they talk about old meets new and the borrowing from Native Cliff Dwellings. Do you think that they come across as successful or are they too literal? What about the discussion about the straw cowboy hat? I think that these play on a very thin line when is comes to the execution of the project and the “feel” that they are trying to create. How could it have better used the concept of the “old west” and use it to support the “new west” of its context?

    • Chavo

      In my opinion, the idea is good. As with any great concept, it is a beginners block from which the project keeps evolving until it becomes something that suits the many requirements of the building. The idea of the hat is interesting, and you can see traces of it, but the building went beyond that to be able to accommodate issues of the site, the program, the climate, etc. It would be pretty sad to see an actual cowboy hat, it would show little evolution within the project (a syndrome known as PostModernism). Without knowing the other issues that changed this project it is difficult to say how it could have been done better.

      I know that this building is currently on hold because of the recession. But it sure would be great to see it built.

  • Mihir B

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…well metaphor’s are often only in the eye’s of the architect. If we are to believe the skin of the building is the straw cowboy hat and the interior terracing is reminiscent of the native american cliff dwellings and you fuse the two together with the historical nature of the ‘OLD’west, then the building is the perfect embodiment of the ‘Cowboys’ total domination over the ‘Native Americans’ and not the civil co-existence this metaphor expects us to believe. Rather I would have liked to see spaces or moments in the building where the terracing levels broke through the skin, where they became exposed as to represent the true nature of their existence as carved out spaces. This would then be a more accurate representation of the conflict and struggle that existed between the cowboys and the native american’s, the real story of how the West evolved.

    Additionally… what is the NEW West? Is this building really the sustainable and environmentally conscious representative of the NEW west or is it simply a glimpse of what the NEW west should have been? After all, didn’t the native’s of the old west live far more efficiently then this so called NEW west?

  • Chris

    @Mihir B You’re right, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that the metaphor is in the eye of the architect, but the description never mentioned dealing with the interactions of the cowboys and the Native Americans. It seems to be more of a eclectic ‘pick-and-choose’ where they chose elements they liked from each and used them as driving forces in the project. (Although I do very much enjoy the idea of the terraces breaking through the skin). Jones Studio had a concept, and they executed it. Now this same exact concept could have countless iterations depending on the architect who designs it. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, just once again a relative idea whether it is a ‘beautiful building’ or not.

    Anyways, cool project!

  • h

    how incredibly awful..

    why is archdaily posting so many decorated sheds? and not even well decorated at that..

  • dkoenst

    Pragmatic??? What is pragmatic about wrapping a box in a willfully curving turd? What is pragmatic about making structural moves without considering how they will be constructed? If you are going to declare a project pragmatic, you must understand what pragmatism is.