Guggenheim-Inspired Observation Tower Proposed for Downtown Phoenix

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Downtown Phoenix could be getting a very unique and spectacular-looking addition to its skyline sometime in the near future, if a local real estate developer's plans become a reality.

News broke online this morning that Phoenix-based developer NovaWest has announced its intention to construct a gigantic 420-foot observation tower that would loom over the Arizona Science Center, Chase Field, and other downtown structures.

Designed by Netherlands-based architecture design firm Bjarke Ingels Group, the proposed structure -- which has been nicknamed "The Pin" and features a globe-shaped open-air spiral sphere atop a monolithic reinforced concrete tower -- would give Phoenix a rather distinctive landmark to call its own.

See also: - A Downtown Phoenix Wish List: Seven Arts/Culture Resources We Need

Per NovaWest's website, the developer plans to build the observation tower on a 10,000 square foot area of land near the intersection of Sixth and Adams streets, just behind the Arizona Science Center and Heritage Square.

According to a press release concerning the project, NovaWest managing partner Brian Stowell says that the tower, if built, would "change the local skyline forever and will give visitors a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

"This is the right place and the right time for a signature project for downtown Phoenix and we knew the design needed to be something extraordinary," Stowell stated in the release.

Plans and artist's drawing for the project reveal that the spiral sphere that tops the tower -- arguably its most stunning-looking feature -- will offer a total of 70,000 square feet of space for retail, a combination bar and restaurant, and a variety of events, as well as epic views of both downtown and the surrounding Valley landscape. (Eat your heart out Compass Room.)

Potential visitors to the tower will be required to purchase tickets before taking a glass-walled elevator ride to the sphere. They can then climb a spiral walkway to the 25-foot-wide observation deck, grab seating to check out the view, peruse art shows, or hit up either the restaurant or shops.

Lead architect Bjarke Ingels stated in a press release that the ascending/descending spiral shape of the sphere was inspired in part by the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

"Like the Guggenheim offers visitors a unique art experience descending around its central void, the motion at The Pin is turned inside-out allowing visitors to contemplate the surrounding city and landscape of Phoenix," Ingels says. "Like a heavenly body hovering above the city the Pin will allow visitors to descend from pole to pole in a dynamic three-dimensional experience seemingly suspended in midair."

Ingles also says that the tower was also designed to resemble a pin in a map in order to represent a destination place.

"Like the monsoons, the haboobs and the mountains of the surrounding Arizonian landscape, the Pin becomes a point of reference and a mechanism to set the landscape in motion through the movement of the spectator," he states.

The modernist, almost space age-style design of the tower and its spiral sphere has earned both praise and plenty of snark since it was unveiled. One commenter on geek site io9 mused about "how much electrostatic charge it'll pick up during haboobs" before comparing the structure to a sex toy, while another reader was a bit more optimistic.

"I see fantastic sunsets and a growing art culture," they stated.

Jackalope Ranch also spoke with Stowell, who mentioned that the observation tower could potentially be for Phoenix what structures like the Space Needle and Gateway Arch are to Seattle or Saint Louis, respectively.

"It most definitely would become an unforgettable part of Phoenix," he says. "This really could emerge as the next big important development for downtown."

But first, he says, the project -- which he estimates will cost an estimated $45 million to $55 million to build -- needs to ultimately receive approval from City of Phoenix officials.

"We've gotten signals from certain channels that we can move this [project] along quickly, but the speed at which it moves and everything else is dependent upon city approval and making sure everything is taken care of," he says.

Another factor involved with the project's timetable, Stowell says, is NovaWest's efforts in securing funding for the tower.

"We don't know exactly because we're right in the middle of our fundraising efforts," he says.

As such, Stowell isn't certain of an exact time frame, but optimistically estimates that the tower could be built withing two years.

"It isn't six years ago when things could get scratched up [and built] quickly," he says. "But were optimistic that the tower will become a reality."

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