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Mesa Arts Center

Mesa, AZ

Mesa Arts Center

Mesa, AZ

The Mesa Arts Center is the largest arts complex in the desert southwest, and a catalyst for urban redevelopment and community pride. The center encompasses four theaters, an arts education facility with 12 studios, and a contemporary art museum all clustered around a dramatic landscaped oasis, creating a diverse, comprehensive cultural complex.

During design we were asked to create something vibrant and unexpected, a new identity for the city that would provide a place for community gathering. We drew inspiration from the color palette of the desert flora and geology, creating a rich 3 dimensional landscape for exploration. At the center of the site the cool water of a metaphorical arroyo tempers the climate.

To enliven the surrounding streets, we placed active, vital spaces like the art gallery and education studios at the perimeter, engaging the public realm. The theaters sit at the center of the site, drawing patrons to the heart of the complex, with entries marked by bright tensile fabric canopies.

The 1,600-seat main performance hall hosts local arts groups and accommodates touring productions, supporting everything from symphonic orchestra to Broadway musicals, dance, film and lectures. In a unique municipal and academic partnership, the arts education studios are jointly shared by the city and community college.

Sustainable strategies, like locating the museum below grade to shelter its contents, using thick walls and solar shading were integral to Bora’s signature design of the Mesa Arts Center. The site comes alive on festival dates, like Cinco de Mayo, when the arts emerge from the interior, filling the landscape with vibrant energy.




Award for Excellence, Urban Land Institute
Merit Award, USITT
Honor Award, American Society of Landscape Architects
Honor Award, IIDA Oregon Chapter
Honor Award, Valley Forward Association


DWL Architects + Planners
Auerbach Pollock Friedlander
LSW Engineers
Auerbach Glasow
McKay Conant Brook
Design Workshop
Martha Schwartz Partners
Artists: Ned Kahn, Jack Mackie, Catherine Widgery