Phoenix Observation Tower / BIG

Courtesy of

Architects: BIG
Location: , AZ, USA
Architects In Charge: Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Christoffersen
Project Leader: Iannis Kandyliaris
Project Team: Thomas Fagan, Aaron Hales, Ola Hariri, Dennis Harvey, Beat Schenk
Collaborators: MKA (structure), Atelier10 (sustainability), Gensler (local architect), TenEyck (landscape)
Client: Novawest
Area: 70,000 ft2
Year: 2012
Photographs: Courtesy of BIG

Perspective Section

Located in downtown Phoenix, the 70,000 sf Observation Tower shall add a significant structure to the Phoenix skyline from which to enjoy the city’s spectacular views of the surrounding mountain ranges and dramatic sunsets. Phoenix-based developer Novawest, commissioned the team to create a destination event to provide tourists and citizens of Phoenix alike the chance to enjoy the unique features of the Valley of the Sun.

Courtesy of BIG

“This is the right place and the right time for a signature project for downtown Phoenix and we knew the design needed to be something extraordinary. BIG has delivered something exceptional, blending form and function in a way that will change the local skyline forever and will give visitors a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Brian Stowell, Novawest.

Courtesy of BIG

The future observation tower is conceived as a tall core of reinforced concrete with an open-air spiral sphere at its top, resembling a metaphorical pin firmly marking a location on a map. The spiraling sphere contains flexible exhibition, retail and recreational spaces which are accessed via three glass elevators that connect the base with the summit and offer panoramic views of the city and the tower’s programs as visitors ascend or descend.

Courtesy of BIG

Walking downwards from the top through a continuous spiral promenade, the visitors of the observation tower experience all of the building’s programs in a constant motion, while enjoying dynamic 360 degree views of the city of Phoenix and the Arizonian landscape.


“Like the monsoons, the haboobs and the mountains of the surrounding Arizonian landscape, the Pin becomes a point of reference and a mechanism to set the landscape in motion through the movement of the spectator. Like the Guggenheim museum of New York offers visitors a unique art experience descending around its central void, the motion at the Pin is turned inside-out allowing visitors to contemplate the surrounding city and landscape of Phoenix. Like a heavenly body hovering above the city the Pin will allow visitors to descend from pole to pole in a dynamic three dimensional experience seemingly suspended in midair.“ Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner, BIG.

Courtesy of BIG

The spiral layout combines the different programmatic elements and the circulation into a continuous dynamic twirling space which is proportioned according to the movement of the visitors, producing a unique viewing experience of the surroundings. Instead of a constant width, the spiraling promenade starts from zero at the point of arrival, reaches its maximum width at the middle, and shrinks back to zero at the point of departure.

Courtesy of BIG

Separation between the programmatic elements within the sphere happens not through physical vertical barrier-walls, but softly through the slope and the height difference to preserve a total continuity and create a flexible space for exhibitions and events.

Courtesy of BIG

Once the visitors reach the middle of the sphere, they can choose to either conclude their journey by taking the elevator back to the ground, or continue to the restaurant levels at the lower hemisphere. The motion resembles a journey through the center of a planet, and a travel from the north to the south pole.


The base of the tower will serve as a public plaza offering shade, water features and a small amount of retail together with a subterranean queuing area. The tower will serve as a working model of sustainable energy practices, incorporating a blend of solar and other technologies.

Cite: Saieh, Nico. "Phoenix Observation Tower / BIG" 20 Dec 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 17 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +20

    This looks like a giant honey dipper.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +15

    To view and appreciate the sprawl I assume?

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +5

    Why Phoenix, what about the Grand Canyons?

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +8

    AT&T should sponsor this because it’s their logo essentially. It seems like SO much effort for just a tower, why not add additional program? IE: Deyoung in SF. I’m sure BIG has thought of this, but from a client perspective it seems like so much effort for such little payoff.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down +6

    hahahaaaaaa!!!!!!!!! its a lollipop!!!!!!!

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    rules of good architecture # 46
    be sure upon reaching a project site to occasionally look up from your smart phone. The maps app while pretty may affect your design.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down +9

    Danish Pavilion on a stick.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    this is no astana national library…im a big fan of BIG but this is pretty lazy. whats the point of the observation deck on top? the whole thing is an observation ramp, might as well make it a bar the whole way up, no?

  9. Thumb up Thumb down +17

    This Isn’t really the Guggenheim in New York. The Guggenheim leads you through art exhibits, this leads you to the depressing Arizona landscape, over and over and over again.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +5

      lol i LOVE your comment.

  10. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Are you guys judging the city of Phoenix or the Project? So if a client come for you asking this kind of project in this city you will just don’t accept because the view won’t be good enough for you? Come on! Go back to the real world before write these dumb critics. A real architect will try to make the best project ever and will hope a better city in the future. What you suggest? A observation tower without windows?

  11. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    Dear Architect’s,
    I am looking for something that is beautiful, needs 1-In Las Vegas Nevada, 1-In Phoenix Arizona, 1-In LA California to start. I have an area to show. This is going to provide jobs in construction(huge)and when it’s open.I have area’s to put them(about, on the map). The construction is about $50Mill to $500Mill. each one. I need an Architect that can find someone to do this(build your plans). These are around world, and the US is just starting.
    Thank You Steve Wagner Phone # 775-747-6433

  12. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    why does this look like the type of building that would be in some weird, futuristic, post-apocalyptic film?

  13. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    ROFLMAO! Looks like a giant toilet brush!
    People flying into Phoenix are gonna point and laugh at that sh!t.

  14. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    Amazing project. Great for Arizona. It will attract a more “diverse” group of people which can greatly benefit the city in general. It will also allow visitors enjoy the most beautiful landscape and sunsets. Too bad some people cannot find beauty in simple things. BIG cheers!

  15. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    The side menu for sharing it to places is so long and that it scrolls with you all the way to the bottom, the edge of the pop up is always off the bottom of the screen for google+ and I cannot share it, bad web design, please fix.

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