Arabian Public Library
Arabian Public Library
Scottsdale, AZ

Desert Experience through Public Architecture

The unique program of this public library is based on contemporary bookstore concepts and includes a popular library with a 120,000-volume collection, as well as a coffee bar and bookstore elements. The program also includes a children’s program room, two multipurpose rooms, computer training center, and a dedicated teen area.

The building is a remembrance of the desert slot canyons of northern Arizona and Monument Valley, capturing the powerful and unique experience between the compressive stone walls and the ultimate release to the sky above. Ever-patient threads of water, sculpting and polishing the massive walls, cut these natural sandstone canyons over millennia. Harder stone and slow water sharply define vertical slivers while softer stone gives way to form the wider crevasse. The library echoes this powerful natural sequence.

Organized about a central court, the building is entered through a “slot canyon” of steel and glass. Walls of weathered steel plate reflect the terra-cotta red walls of stone as they lean in overhead, then fall away from the entry path opening to the sky above. The steel walls of the building support a gravel and stone roof, utilizing natural materials from the site.

A continuous thread of water echo’s the natural erosion of the canyon wall creating the powerful imagery of the building, and eventually pooling at the edge of the courtyard.  A singular tree is the focus of the space. The centralized court is used as a pre-function and program spaces for the library and meeting rooms. Two slender “canyon courts” flank the west and south sides of the building, expanding library lounge spaces to the exterior and ultimately opening the building to the sky and desert floor again.

The building is a remembrance of the desert slot canyons of the southwest, capturing the powerful and unique experience of compressive stone walls and the ultimate release to the sky above. Ever-patient threads of water sculpted and polished massive canyon walls over millennia. Harder stone and slow waters sharply define vertical slivers while softer stone gives way to wider crevasse. Echoing this powerful natural sequence, an earthen and stone roof is thrust from the desert floor, taking with it the native grasses, shrub and stone texture. Organized about a central court, the building is entered through a “slot canyon” of steel and glass. Walls of weathered steel plate reflect the terra-cotta walls of stone as they lean over and fall away from the entry path and open to the sky above. The weathered steel walls of the building support an earthen and stone roof, planted with native vegetation and stone from the site. Roof gardens contain desert landscape, recalling the surface level vegetation as one descends into the canyon.


Client:  City of Scottsdale, Scottsdale Public Library System


Size:  21,202 SF


Project Type:  Civic + Public


Services:  Architecture, Programming, Planning, Interior Design, Sustainability


Delivery Method:  Design-Bid-Build


General Contractor:  Redden Construction, Inc.


Mechanical/Plumbing Engineer:  Kunka Engineering, Inc.


Electrical Engineer:  OMB Electrical Engineers


Structural Engineer:  Caruso Turley Scott, Inc.


Landscape Architect:  EGroup


Photographer:  Bill Timmerman


Certification: LEED Certified


2009 – AIA / ALA Library Building Awards, National Honor Award


2009 – The Chicago Athenaeum: American Architecture Award


2008 – ALA / IIDA, Honor Award: Public Libraries 30,000 SF – Smaller


2008 – IIDA / Metropolis, Smart Environments Award


2008 – IIDA Southwest Chapter PRIDE, Design Excellence for Public Facility


2008 – IIDA Southwest Chapter PRIDE, Design Excellence for Single Space, Teen Square


2008 – Valley Forward Environmental Excellence, Merit Award


2008 – AIA Arizona, Honor Award


2008 – AIA Western Mountain Region, Honor Award


2008 – AIA / IIDA, Best of Competition


2006 – ALA / IIDA, Honor Award: On the Boards


2006 – IIDA Southwest Chapter PRIDE, On the Boards


2005 – AIA Western Mountain Region, Citation Award: Unbuilt

The building is a remembrance of the desert slot canyons of the southwest, capturing the powerful and unique experience of compressive stone walls and the ultimate release to the sky above. Ever-patient threads of water sculpted and polished massive canyon walls over millennia. Harder stone and slow waters sharply define vertical slivers while softer stone gives way to wider crevasse. Echoing this powerful natural sequence, an earthen and stone roof is thrust from the desert floor, taking with it the native grasses, shrub and stone texture. Organized about a central court, the building is entered through a “slot canyon” of steel and glass. Walls of weathered steel plate reflect the terra-cotta walls of stone as they lean over and fall away from the entry path and open to the sky above. The weathered steel walls of the building support an earthen and stone roof, planted with native vegetation and stone from the site. Roof gardens contain desert landscape, recalling the surface level vegetation as one descends into the canyon.

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