SMoCA Building

    SMoCA exterior. Photo: Bill Timmerman

    View of a portion of SMoCA's glass Srim Wall by James Carpenter and the James Turrell Skyspace. Photo: Dana Buhl

    SMoCA Building

    SMoCA outdoor courtyard. Photo: Tim Lanterman

    View of the elliptical opening of the outdoor James Turrell Skyspace titled Knight Rise. © James Turrell. Photo: Dana Buhl

    SMoCA outdoor courtyard. Photo: Sean Deckert

    SMoCA Building

    SMoCA lobby. Photo: Tim Lanterman

    SMoCA Building

    SMoCA Lounge, 2011 installation design by Janis Leonard with assistance from Effie Bouras. Photo: TIm Lanterman

The SMoCA Building

Designed by award-winning architect Will Bruder, SMoCA’s minimalist building (an ingenious renovation of a former movie theater) has four galleries for showcasing changing exhibitions and works from the Museum’s growing permanent collection, along with a fifth multi-use gallery space called the SMoCA Lounge.

The Gerard L. Cafesjian Pavilion of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is a complement to the existing Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts (Bennie Gonzales, architect, 1975), achieved through the opportunistic adaptation of the adjacent cineplex, whose five theaters proved to be a logical organization of perfect scale for 18,500 square feet of versatile temporary exhibition galleries. This challenging civic work offers the community a portal to discovery in the experience of art and a linkage with the vitality coursing thorough contemporary art.

From the first beckoning at curbside, the familiar world begins to fade and opportunity for exploration opens. On the journey into the building, the Arizona sun rarely leaves completely. It maintains a living presence of light and place. The existing stucco theater block is now clothed in an elusive, eggplant-grey chroma likened to the shadows left by fading sunset light on the western ramparts of the McDowell range to the east. The recessively dark, somewhat abstract mass is embraced by an oblong service pod of corrugated and perforated galvanized metal at the west and softly curved arrival pod of flat-seam galvanized steel on the east. The pods make a gesture of deference to the bullnosed volumes of the existing SCPA and shape gracefully compact urban spaces. Reflective membranes embody both the material heritage of the region and the particular qualities of its sky, changing in time and season, occasionally dissolving into the ether.

Street arrival begins with the luminous Scrim Wall by James Carpenter Design Associates. Textured glass sheets shudder around a curve, with joinery of dichroic glass spacers, form a vibrant civic lantern and wrap the volume of the sculpture court beyond with a sublime field of energy. Shimmering light and shifting slices of the spectrum play over the exterior of the celebrated James Turrell elliptical Skyspace, Knight Rise. A scale and material shift occurs as the scrim slips behind the galvanized wall of the arrival pod. The architectural canyon between this face and the SCPA narrows, only to widen as a folded inflection of the metal creates an entry compression beneath a plate aluminum soffit. A mirrored stainless sign backlit with green neon reflects shirts and faces, its mercury glow leading to the first transparent glimpse of the interior. The glazed sweep is breached at entry by an inserted box of Judd-like aluminum assembly containing automated sliding glass doors and grating under-lit with molten orange light.

Museum building Architect:

William P. Bruder-Architect, Ltd. 
Will Bruder, Rob Gaspard, Tim Christ, Ben Nesbeitt, Saskia Harth, Donna Barry, design team

Client (1999):

  • Scottsdale Cultural Council (SCC)
  • Frank Jacobson, President
  • Robert Knight, SMoCA Director
  • Ric Alling: Project Manager


Rudow & Berry, Inc Mark Rudow, structural; 
Baltes/Valentino Associates, mechanical/electrical; 
Lighting Dynamics, lighting design; 
Wardin Cockriel & Associates, acoustical; 
Construction Consultants, cost consultant; 
Howard S. Wright Construction Co., general contractor