Covering an area of 2.6 square miles, Downtown Phoenix is located at the center of the Phoenix metropolitan region. Since the late 1940's the city and region has experienced explosive suburban growth, in addition, recent trends have also seen growth in the various urban cores distributed through the region. A number of factors including a new light rail line connecting downtown Mesa, Tempe and Phoenix and the decision to locate a new campus for Arizona State University in downtown Phoenix have sparked discussions on the nature of development in Downtown Phoenix and how the many empty parcels
of land surrounding the core are to be utilized.
Seeing the opportunity to transform these areas into high density, mixed-use districts, the city initiated the Downtown Phoenix Urban Form Project with the dual goals of creating a plan and new zoning code for the downtown core. Studio Ma acted as the local architect and sustainability consultant on a team led by Dyett and Bhatia out of San Francisco.
Called the "Connected Oasis" the new plan describes an open space pedestrian-intensive network of shaded street, pocket parks and dedicated "green connectors" tying together major downtown destinations and retail zones. The extreme summer heat poses real challenges to the design of public open space in Phoenix. The proposed zoning code optimizes building massing and street canyon sections to balance the competing needs of thermal comfort and the Urban Heat Island Effect. This is achieved by (1) creating a building / street profile that allows air movement through the building mass to flush out accumulated heat and pollutants (2) optimized shading of ground and building surfaces that affect the thermal comfort of pedestrians (3) the use highly reflective and emissive building materials (4) the creation of "cool pockets" along pedestrian routes to enhance psychological comfort.
The application of these strategies creates an authentic urban design response for the Phoenix Region and is the basis of a new "Desert Urbanism" being applied by Studio Ma on all of its local projects.