Today, The American Institute of Architects named Burton Barr Phoenix Central Library by Will Bruder Architects and DWL Architects + Planners as the recipient of its 2021 Twenty-Five Year Award. The honor recognizes the library in Arizona's capital as "a building that has set a precedent for the last 25-35 years and continues to set standards of excellence for its architectural design and significance," according to an award description by AIA.
In 1988, then-Phoenix mayor Terry Goddard released funding for a new city library. In the following year, the city's selection committee unanimously chose BruderDWLarchitects, a local team formed by Will Bruder Architects and DWL Architects + Planners. To get feedback from the local community in the design process, BruderDWLarchitects initiated a series of public meetings and gathered input on desired programming. The team also met with librarians, city officials, and representatives from similar facilities in the U.S. and Canada to better understand its project's ultimate program. After conducting this extensive research, BruderDWLarchitects began the design process.
BruderDWLarchitects completed the 280,000-square-foot project in 1995, housing the library's 1 million–volume collection within a sculptural, weathered copper–clad exterior inspired by Arizona's flat-topped mesas. Patrons can enter the five-story library through one of two entrances that feed into a 90-foot-tall skylight atrium. Glass elevators and a translucent staircase carry visitors to each of the five floors.
"The iconic facility thus created boldly expresses its significance as a key cultural asset for the entire Phoenix metropolitan area," wrote Jonathan Moody, AIA, co-chair of AIA's Twenty-Five Year Award Committee and president and CEO of the Columbus, Ohio–based firm Moody Nolan, in a letter supporting the library's award nomination. "Seen from the exterior, the library vigorously expresses its function as a regional repository of knowledge. It presents a visible embodiment of the stability, security, and protection it affords for both its contents and its users. Yet, for all of the building’s expression of enclosure, the spacious public study areas inside offer expansive views out to the city and beyond."
BruderDWLarchitects worked closely with international engineering firm Arup Group (then Ove Arup & Partners) to make the library a regional hallmark of green design, aiming to create an environmentally conscious structure before the LEED rating system officially launched in 1998. The project, which boasts high-efﬁciency mechanical and lighting solutions, 12-inch-thick precast concrete walls, solar-shaded glazing systems, thermal mass temperature control, and gas chillers, received a LEED-EB (LEED for Existing Buildings) Silver rating in 2015, a decade after its completion.
Past winners of the Twenty-Five Year Award include Conjunctive Points—The New City in Culver City, Calif., by Eric Owen Moss Architects (2020); Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates’ Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery in London (2019); Pei Cobb Freed & Partners' design for The Grand Louvre—Phase 1, in Paris (2017); EHDD's design for the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, Calif. (2016); and the Broadgate Exchange House in London, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (2015). AIA did not confer a Twenty-Five Year Award in 2018.
See more winners of the 2021 AIA Honor Awards here.