Best Modernist - 2009
Phoenix would be a very different place if architect Will Bruder had followed his original plans and become a sculptor. Bruder, whose designs include the annex of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and downtown's Burton Barr Central Library, received a degree in sculpture from the University of Wisconsin, and studied art and engineering before apprenticing with Paolo Soleri in the late '60s. His application of this varied knowledge helped put Phoenix on the map as an architecturally significant city with a singular, Modernist approach to designing homes and commercial buildings that celebrate the desert's dramatic lighting and stark color palette.
Soon after opening his award-winning practice in 1974, Bruder made it clear he was about celebrating desert views. Ignoring popular trends in homebuilding, Bruder's designs literally turned their backs on the city, featuring sweeping desert vistas with houses retrofitted into our arid topography. He even helped popularize the notion that a home design can consider climate for energy efficiency.
Bruder's piece de resistance is the Burton Barr Central Library, a five-story, 280,000-square-foot landmark that features an open, one-acre media room, and a five-floor, glass-and-steel elevator and stairwell. The motorized louvers on the building's south façade deflect the sun, and the fifth-floor reading room houses every one of the library's nonfiction titles. The library is a testament to Bruder's goal to create buildings that are both beautiful and functional, simple and complex. He's created this sort of forward-thinking design both far and wide, and we're proud of him. Mostly, we're glad he continues to design and build his magnificent structures here in our town.