Category: News

Circle West Architects

Radical Hospitality

Nov 14, 2011


The project proposes a radical and innovative urban boutique hotel for a desert site and climate. It compacts the amenities and services of a sprawling resort into a dense urban hotel on a much smaller site. At the same time, it challenges the way that program is typically incorporated into urban buildings, where all of one type is located in the same place and stacked linearly above the next. Each primary programmatic component of this hotel has been broken down into multiple facets and distributed organically throughout the entire building in spaces of different size, proximity, and character.

Within its urban context, the hotel is able to take on a micro-urbanism of its own. Different zones of the hotel offer unique experiences, both spatially and experientially, bringing the traditional idea of a neighborhood into a single building. Guests pass through and past all kinds of different amenity and gathering spaces on the way to their rooms, and no two routes are the same. It is encouraged to try a different one and explore new areas of the hotel along the way. It would be a treat, not a frustration, to get lost.

Unlike sprawling desert oasis resorts, which are all-inclusive and usually have little connection with their contexts, this hotel is tightly associated with its urban context. Taking advantage of this context, the hotel can serve as a node within a larger network rather than needing to be the entire network.

By providing an appropriate proportion of amenities within the hotel itself and by encouraging guests to experience the urban area around them, the hotel enters into a reciprocal relationship with the surrounding context.

How should a building respond to the extreme heat and harsh sun of the desert, while providing and encouraging the use of outdoor space, without the need to condition all spaces? The project takes cues from the natural desert environment. Looking closely at desert vegetation, it is apparent how specifically and innovatively it is designed to survive comfortably in its severe environment. A palo verde tree, for example, has leaves that are broken up into many tiny, thin leaves. Aided by breezes that move through the slender and delicate structure of the tree, these smaller leaves are able to dissipate the intense heat without drying up. Barrel and saguaro cactuses have a fluted skin that is self shading. All surfaces of its skin are never fully exposed to the harsh sun. Looking at how desert animals adapt to their environment and survive without artificial means, it is apparent that shade is a key factor. The hotel avoids heavy, massive elements in favor of thin, porous, and dispersed approach. It also significantly shades itself and creates more temperate microclimates.

The project takes the uniform rectilinear mass of a traditional hotel, stretches it into a more slender and delicate form, and then folds it to create two primary wings that embrace the site and the lake. At this fold in the building, the mass splinters into smaller floor-height bars that overlap and jut out. The wings of the hotel building are made up of programmed spaces arranged along a single-loaded, open-air externalized circulation system. This keeps them much more slender than the traditional hotel building composed of programmed spaces mirrored over an often dark and depressing double-loaded corridor. The external circulation system also provides a unique opportunity to experience the project and its urban context from a variety of different heights and vantage points.

The overall mass of each wing is broken up into smaller, highly varied masses that are organically arranged. Floor levels step in an out and slip past one another, creating a multitude of unique and interesting outdoor spaces which are self shaded by the building itself. On a network of different terraces, there are numerous opportunities to occupy the roof of one floor of the building while being shaded by an overhanging floor above. The fragmented terraced levels of the project create rich visual connections between both floor levels and wings of the hotel simultaneously. In addition to the grand views of the lake, guests will enjoy a rich variety of views of the hotel itself as well as its urban context, framed and edited by the building itself. The terraces range in size and are available throughout the hotel to create miniature neighborhoods where proximal privacy is retained but distant tier-to-tier relationships can be created. The hotel showcases its public outdoor activities and becomes a vibrant point within its urban context.

Among the varied and staggered masses that make up each wing of the hotel, there is a variety of voids which fully penetrate the building. Unlike the massive and impermeable hotel buildings one typically sees, this building is lightweight, delicate, and porous. The voids become outdoor pocket parks and allow breezes to pass through the building. These breezes, in conjunction with outdoor pools scattered throughout, will create a passive evaporative cooling system. Both shaded and passively cooled, the outdoor spaces within the building will be significantly more comfortable relative to the ambient desert environment.

The south and west sides of the building’s wings are shaded by a detached screen that is held off the building and appears to float outside the external circulation paths. Like a veil that has blown up against the building, the screen gently undulates and responds to the massing of the building behind. Where there are solid masses in the building behind, it billows out, and where there are voids, it dips in. The density of the screen also varies to allow greater air movement where the wind is passing through voids in the building. Where it is more open, guests have views out to the street and their activity is revealed to pedestrians on the street. In the space between the buildings masses and the shade screen, the external circulation paths and ramps navigate the different floor levels of the project. They do so through an intermediate, semi-conditioned zone that is at once interior and exterior, program and expression, obscured and exposed. At the top and bottom of the building, the veil wraps around in places, which serves to shade the roof decks as well as the façade.


A Catalyst for Change

Nov 01, 2011

ASU Changemaker Central

Arizona State University has been selected as part of Ashoka U’s Changemaker Campus Initiative which aims to solve social issues through entrepreneurship at universities. ASU was given this prestigious label last fall and is one of 10 Changemaker Campuses nationwide — a list that includes Duke University and the University of Maryland.

Circle West Architects was selected to transform an existing facility into a flexible designed environment which allows innovations to paint a picture of where they want to go. “Changemaker Central is at the forefront of designing environments which leverage educational intiatives,” said Peter M. Koliopolous AIA, President of Circle West Architects. “The underlying premise is that ASU’s educational experience is a key part of developing awareness and demand for social and environmental innovation.” The space provides students with the resources, through meeting space, technology, and social connections, to go out and make a difference in their community. Changemaker Central brings together student volunteers, student entrepreneurs, and socially engaged students to allow opportunities for community service, service learning, high impact careers, and entrepreneurship to blossom.

The concept for Changemaker Central is to develop and nurture students by providing resources and opportunities to inspire, catalyze, and sustain student-driven social change. Circle West Architects took on the task of converting a relatively dormant 1960’s space in ASU’s Memorial Union into a bright, lively space that encourages change and innovation in the student community. The existing walls are made up of precast concrete blocks with embedded strips of art glass in their centers, filling the space with colorful (but still very dim) light. The space needed to be naturally brightened while still limiting the demolition of the existing block. This was accomplished by demolishing minimal block on the east and west walls of the space and installing butt glazed floor-to-ceiling lites of glass. By making the glass Low-E, the insulation value of the existing walls were not decreased, but increased to create a well-lit space protected from the desert’s environment.

To achieve the objectives of the mission for Changemaker Central, the 2,090 square foot interior space was opened up for a communal central space with defined interior spaces. Users will converge in this space encouraging interaction while allowing for various groups to engage in distinguishable processes. Space for active discussion and brainstorming is provided by lining the block walls with floating wall panels finished in dry erase paint, allowing the freedom to write and post directly on the walls. The walls floating in front of the the block created this reverberating character finishes over structure that repeats itself through the space: the carpet floats in the center of the concrete floor, leaving an exposed band of concrete around the edge, and the suspended open ceiling grid float in front of the waffle slab structure above. Kellie Lowe, Director of Memorial Union, stated “The collaboration between ASU and Circle West Architects for the design of Changemaker Central on the Tempe campus has resulted in an aesthetically pleasing and highly functional space for our students. The design incorporates the elements of the New American University, and complements the design of the Memorial Union’s second floor, while meeting the needs of today’s students.”


The Essentials

Jul 29, 2011

The power of innovative design.

Beautiful statements, thoughtfully incorporated. Enjoy our digital portfolio.


Inside the Approval

Jul 06, 2011

A recent presentation by our design leader, Peter M. Koliopoulos AIA, to the City of Scottsdale regarding a new bold plan and design for a cultural heritage center in and about the American West that will entertain, educate, inspire, and celebrate. The design concept is centered on Western art, culture, history, and the Sonoran Desert.

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The cultural heritage center aspires to serve as a gateway to engage its visitors in the ever-evolving narrative of the region, inviting them to discover in themselves the qualities that shaped this special region of the country’s courage, audacity, creativity, resilience, and integrity. The cultural heritage center plan and architecture will authentically express a beautiful “weaving” of spaces, landscape, architecture, and materials that are rooted in the American West.

The basic goals of the design concept are: To promote a physical environment that reflects and contributes to the American West, To develop and leverage access and connectivity to the McDowell Mountains and surrounding neighbors, and To deepen the understanding of the specific visual and aesthetic characteristics of the transformations of the American West.


Accessible Tasteful Design

Jun 09, 2011

Goodhouse is our first single-family residential prototype designed to be an affordable way for first-time homebuyers to be able to purchase a modern residence. The approach was to implement a calm, logical design using cutting edge materials and planning to create an enduring and sustainable home. The concept was oriented to capture sunlight and views, precisely placed to provide shelter, this home represents a thoughtful interaction of indoor/outdoor living. It employs special thermal insulation for maximum year-round comfort and select environmentally sensitive materials to ensure air quality.

The design drawings can be purchased directly from Circle West Architects. Site selection and additional adjustments can also be coordinated through Circle West. Contact our office and schedule a time for us to walk you through out exciting new residential design.



Modern Intervention

Apr 11, 2011
Stratz Residence

Why is the Stratz Residence such an important milestone in the sustainable growth of Phoenix?  Heather and Mark Stratz are exceptional people that have a no compromise, straight forward, approach to living life. The home renovation that we have designed for them identifies with the ideas of the early twentieth century avant-garde movements which embarked on the systematic dismantling of tradition.

This modern intervention in the Sonoran Desert is a case study in rethinking a traditional floor plan and reorganizing around the openness of the central courtyard. Our approach was to “recycle” as much of the existing home by refinishing the existing concrete floors, maintaining the original roof line, and accentuating the floor plan towards the eastern views of Camelback Mountain.

The new design will feature a healthy environment filled with natural daylight, timeless materials of zinc metal siding for the exterior, insulated glass, modern sustainable finishes, appliances and fixtures will be incorporated to develop a simple way of living, and enjoying life.

The Stratz Residence is similar in approach to our Desert House Residence. Applying an open design strategy with flexibility, starts the given circumstances and a reverence for the natural environment with a powerful modern aesthetic.

The design of Desert House, a 5,000 square foot remodel of a 20 year old residence, also kept “recycling” in mind. The concrete and stucco structure of the original house remains in tact minimizing material required to be sent to the landfill.  A large percentage of the construction and building materials are high recycled content such as the glass, zinc siding, and concrete flooring.

Desert House – After

Desert House – Before

Stay tuned for more blog posts from Circle West Architects.

Circle West


Welcome to Circle West Architects blog!

Nov 30, 2010

Circle West is a full service architecture and planning firm, focused on innovative, modern, and sustainable designs. Our extensive experiences are influenced by a diverse array of public and private projects, varying from single family residential and hospitality projects to large scale mixed-use city centers. We develop the needs and aspirations of our clients into inventive, engaging built environments. We listen, we collaborate, and we are passionate about our work.

We are focused on design excellence. Design based on a discerning respect for appropriateness and human understanding. Design that honors the unique qualities of its purpose and place, and that is environmentally responsible. Design that enriches and inspires people’s lives.

Organized in an open studio format, Circle West Architects foster open dialogue and communication of ideas. Circle West Architects embodies integrity and professionalism in our relationships with our clients, consultants, and community.

Established in 1992, Circle West Architects has gained national recognition for innovative design excellence. The firm has completed and has ongoing projects, from smaller-scale residential projects to large-scale mixed-use towncenters, throughout the western United States.

Here is a video of Bill Murray reading poetry to some construction workers.

I hope you enjoyed Circle West’s first blog post.

More to come.

Circle West

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