The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona exhibited perfect timing with its Flip a Strip design competition and the subsequent show, which opened on Oct. 5 and runs through Jan. 18. Aimed at reinventing the strip mall for a hopefully greener 21st century, the competition gave architects a constructive outlet for anxieties about gas prices, global warming, and a decaying economy.

Boston-based Studio Luz Architects was named one of 10 winners. The firm's design (below) reimagines strip mall circulation, cutting away portions of the retail block to make room for pathways and evoking a marketplace in the process. The brutal Southwestern summers are conditioned by a system of roof ponds and Trombe walls that circulate cool water, siphoning heat away from the occupied space. Also mitigating heat gain is a fabric roof canopy, which integrates photovoltaic cells and light-emitting fabric to illuminate the covered parking lot for festivals.

These concepts can be applied elsewhere, Anthony Piermarini, one of the firm's co-founders, says: "We were interested in realism and practicality, given that the strip mall is such a beast of burden."

One of 10 winners in the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art's Flip a Strip design competition, entered by Boston-based Studio Luz Architects.

One of 10 winners in the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art's Flip a Strip design competition, entered by Boston-based Studio Luz Architects.

Credit: Studio Luz