The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art Flip a Strip competition challenged designers around the country to re-imagine the suburban strip mall as an urban typology, proposing an alternative to the ubiquitous developments which have emerged as an economic response to a rapidly outward expanding residential market and the availability of inexpensive land.
The project site is located in Tempe, part of a nondescript commercial frontage along Broadway Road. Contrary to typical infill projects, which fill gaps in the urban fabric, the inherent context of the strip center calls for a different strategy—an intensification of existing sites, relying on programmatic variety. Urban fill condenses the metropolitan experience into a single site, bringing together a range of activities in order to engender a cross-pollination and hybridization of uses.
Understanding strip centers as an inherently private, developer-driven enterprise and therefore requiring an economic functionalism, the first operation is to increase the density of the site. Although retail remains the cornerstone of the strip mall, a market analysis of the area suggests that additional retail would be unsustainable. The existing commercial space is therefore reduced slightly, but additional residential units and small office condos are added to diversify and activate the site, along with a bar of mini storage, which generates revenue while adding a minimal parking burden.
This more than doubles the floor area ratio while maintaining a formal massing within existing zoning regulations, preserving valuable on-grade open space for parking and other activities. In order to reinforce Broadway as a unique spatial experience, the building’s façade is peeled off and stretched to the street, creating a space held together by the tension between surface and volume. This central plaza becomes the nucleus of the project and programmatic mixing bowl, while fulfilling pragmatic goals such as shading, lighting, power generation, and providing advertising.