Architects: Blank Studio
Location: Superior, AZ, USA
Principal in Charge: Matthew G Trzebiatowski, AIA
Project Team: Michael Powell + Stefan Richter
Client: Alan + Christine Benoit; Superior C O A L, LLC
Structural Engineer: BDA Engineers
Electrical Engineer: Don Witt Engineering
Mechanical + Plumbing: Kunka Engineering
Constructed Area: 120 sqm + 42 sqm of outdoor dining terrace
Project year: 2007
Photography: Bill Timmerman
The Social Condenser project is located at the base of the Superstition Mountain Range in the Town of Superior, Arizona which was founded in 1882 and has strong ties to mining of copper, silver and gold. The project is uniquely positioned between historic Main Street and Queen Creek. The site consists of two parcels, the project parcel to the north and an open landscaped parcel to be developed into future outdoor dining and music pavilion, and is bisected by an access path from the upper street level and a lower wooden footbridge that spans across the creek.
The project is a renovation and expansion of an existing two-story block building and addition of an exterior dining terrace. The lower level is developed into kitchen, mechanical and storage spaces and the upper level is designed as an open gathering space. The south-facing wall of the upper level of the existing building is removed to expose the volume within. The remaining form is rendered to closely match the shadow tones of the surrounding hills and acts as both backdrop and anchor for the new addition.
The project was informed by the concept of the “public house”. Classically an obscured, introverted diagram, the Social Condenser conversely aims to balance concealment with exuberant exposure of the internal activities to the streetscape, the pedestrian walking path and the adjacent landscaped parcel. The project is envisioned to be the living room of the community; a place to congregate, socialize, view work of provincial artists and enjoy the breathtaking landscape vistas that envelop the region.
The project utilizes a reduced palette of cool-toned materials. Expanded aluminum panels, with fine openings, sheaths the street wall and entry canopy and draws the visitor to the stair tower that subtlety rotates to orient the visitor to the adjacent parcel and the new main entry door. The tower is wrapped in the same aluminum material and conceals an open expanse of grey glass behind it. Upon entry, the visitor is greeted with the expansive view of the creek and identifies that the twist of the floor plan geometry now aligns the building with the axis of the wooden footbridge and the creek. The visitor then continues the spiraling journey around the open common space, through a large operable glass wall panel out to the dining terrace prow with a sweeping view of the full extent of the creek in the foreground and Apache Leap rock formation in the distant hills.
Formally, the exterior of the building evokes movement as the new form of the project nestles into its site condition. Clad entirely in engineered wood planking, made from recycled wood and plastic, the formidable mass of northeastern end of the new terrace is mitigated by undercutting the form and creating a hyperbolic parabola surface. This form is counterbalanced by a parabolic surface that sweeps outward towards the southwest and is bracketed by the stair volume.