• Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Completed: 2015
  • Building Area: 35,310 sf
  • Client: Scottsdale's Museum of the West

  • LEED Gold
  • 48.6% over AHRAE 90.1
  • 26 annual EUI

  • 2019 2019 Architect's Newspaper Best of Design Awards, Editor's Pick, Landscape - Public
  • 2018 USGBC Mountain West Green Building Legacy Award
  • 2015 AIA Arizona Honor Award

To create a museum for the City of Scottsdale that would draw national attention, Studio Ma tapped the potential of tilt-up construction to produce an American western art museum at less than half the cost of similar buildings. The team unlocked hidden aesthetic potential in this construction technique, typically used for building retail strip centers, to create an architecturally lively concrete building that self-shades its facades to reduce the effects of desert heat. A flexible floor plan with movable gallery walls lowered both construction and operational costs. The museum, sited next to a former bus transit center, has accelerated the revitalization of the city’s historic downtown, and connects to a new mixed-use district.

I’ve never had this kind of engagement, and I’ve built many museums.

Mike Fox
CEO and Director, Scottsdale’s Museum of the West

A dream for over 20 years, the founders of Scottsdale’s Museum of the West wished to create the preeminent American Western art experience in the nation. After choosing Studio Ma to lead design, the group won a competition for a site in Scottsdale’s historic downtown, a short walk from the main library and city hall. This neighborhood is also a noted cultural district for American western arts and crafts that draws tourists internationally. But at the time, the area was suffering from economic decline.

The design of the museum takes its inspiration from icons of the west including the horseshoe, woven basket and the characteristic red cliffs and mesas of the Colorado Plateau. Public spaces are organized as a series of U-shaped spaces around a vertically articulated courtyard.

Natural light from the courtyard is a central, organizing element for the museum’s circulation, reminding visitors of the color and drama of the western landscape. A bridge connecting the upper level galleries provides views of Camelback Mountain to the northwest, an iconic natural feature of Phoenix. The design and programming incorporated parts of the vacant Loloma Transit Center and grounds. The museum provides another cultural venue to the downtown and is the center for an augmented arts district, and it connects with adjacent downtown neighborhoods.

Through a three-year design and construction process, Scottsdale’s Museum of the West became a Smithsonian Affiliate lending institution within the first six months of its opening, a record for newly constructed museums. The project was also built at one-third the normal museum costs by working closely with the contractor and using tilt-up construction methods.