Phoenix Urban Design Week 2016: Here's Everything You Need to Know

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Turns out, you don’t have to be an architect or urban planner to have a say in how your city looks or functions. During Phoenix Urban Design Week from March 31 to April 7, you can be part of brainstorming a temporary art installation in Roosevelt Row. And that’s just one of the event’s offerings – which also include a bike prom and neon sign tour, among other things.

Phoenix Urban Design Week – which is co-hosted by Design RePublic founder Lindsay Kinkade and Dorina Bustamante, director of community engagement for Downtown Phoenix, Inc. – includes more than 50 subject-matter experts appearing at 16 events in and around downtown Phoenix. We’ve got the rundown by event type, including a look at options for those with a special interest in the intersection of arts and culture with urban design.

Many events are free, but some aren't. So check the Phoenix Urban Design Week Facebook page for all the fine print before you head out. If you're a serious design geek with a special fondness for all things Midcentury Modern, note that Modern Phoenix Week runs April 1 to 10, and offers a slew of tours, talks, and other events. 

Arts and Urban Design
If you’re big on arts and urban planning, you’ve got several good options, including an exhibition focused on midcentury design, a presentation on art and placemaking, and a self-guided tour of the warehouse district that’s home to an array of art venues from Bentley Gallery to ASU’s Grant Street Studios.

Head to the A.E. England Building at Civic Space Park to see The Intersection: An Interactive Art Experience, which features an interactive art installation commissioned by the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture as part of Mayor Greg Stanton’s PHX Innovation Games. It’s a collaboration between local media and production company Union Digital and artists Dustin Farrell and Hector Primero, who’ll use advanced projection technology to transform a Central Avenue storefront into “a fishbowl of vibrant imagery.” The installation will be on view from 7 to 11:30 p.m. on Friday, April 1, and from 7 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, April 2.

An urban art project called Design a Traffic Triangle takes place Saturday, April 2, from 9 a.m. to noon at Roosevelt Point. It’s a chance for everyday citizens to share their ideas for the design of a temporary art project to be installed at a traffic triangle located at Fourth and Roosevelt streets, between the Wurth House and Roosevelt Point. It’ll be located near the Phoenix public art piece that drew controversy a while back when it was installed on a traffic triangle in the same part of Roosevelt Row.

For those who dig hearing the experts share their insights, there’s an event called "Conversation with Experts: Community Development through the Arts, Historic Preservation & Placemaking," which features Carol Poole, Ph.D., MBA, sharing her know-how and perspective on urban design. It takes place Tuesday, April 5, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the ASU University Center at 411 North Central Avenue. And from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, Corgan Architects will give a presentation titled Artists & Placemaking: How Do Artists Enrich Community Identity? at Central Arts Plaza, which is located at 1850 North Central Avenue.

Maybe you’re into learning more about the warehouse district. If so, check out Warehouse Wednesday: Self-Guided Bike and Walking Tour, which happens Wednesday, April 6, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., starting at CCBG Architects located at 102 East Buchanan Street.

Exploring City Streets
Several additional events give metro Phoenix urbanites the chance to explore city streets they haven’t spent much time traversing, or to learn more about familiar spaces from local experts in urban culture.

You can take the Insider Tour of Uptown Plaza from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 2. While you’re in the area, check out nearby art spaces, including Practical Art, where you’ll find an exhibition of new works by Lara Plecas which address the ways Hungarians painted their cookie-cutter, government-built homes with bold colors and graphics during the mid-19th century as acts of rebellion against communist rule.

If you’re gaga for all things neon, join “hip historian” Marshall Shore and Vic Linoff of the Mesa Preservation Foundation for Mesa’s Main Street Neon by Night on Sunday, April 3, from 6 to 8 p.m. The tour starts from the Valley Metro Park and Ride at Price Freeway and Apache Boulevard. It’s a plus that the area also boasts several impressive works of public art along the Valley Metro Light Rail Central Mesa line, a relatively new work by Mary Shindell located at a pocket park at Main Street and Country Club Drive, and several murals inspired by Mesa’s history with neon signs.

Learn more about the history of several Phoenix alleys and plazas during a walking tour called Meet Me Downtown Walk: Phoenix Historic Alleys & Plazas, which runs from 5:15 to 7:15 p.m. on Monday, April 4. Walkers should meet at The Corner at CityScape, which is located at 50 West Jefferson Street.

Mixing and Mingling
Cyclists can head to Civic Space Park for a Bike Parade and Bike Prom taking place Saturday, April 2, from 6 to 11 p.m. The parade travels from Civic Space Park to Phoenix Ale Brewery. While you’re there, check out Janet Echelman's Her Secret is Patience, a sculpture suspended in the air that’s arguably Phoenix’s most-recognized piece of public art.

And since a big part of creating a welcoming space is getting to know your neighbors, there’s even a Roosevelt Row Community BBQ & Potluck happening from 3 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, April 3, at Roosevelt and Second streets.

Roosevelt and Second streets will also be the cool place for kids of all ages from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday, April 3. During FORTuitous Children’s Fort Building, kids (and their grown-ups) can draw with local artist Yai Vila and build their own creative forts. It’s a bring-your-own art and fort-making supplies affair, so this is the time to haul those jumbo appliance boxes off your back patio and cull the house for old sheets. And hey, don’t wear your Sunday best, because it could get messy out there.

Urban Design Presentations
Jonce Walker with Terrapin Bright Green in New York gives a talk titled "Biophilic Urban Design" (think nature meets urban design) from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 31, at the Security building, located at 234 North Central Avenue.

Head to Burton Barr Central Library on Sunday, April 3, to hear "Historic Neighborhoods of Phoenix: A Talk by Marge and Gerry McCue," which takes place from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Learn more about two significant Phoenix sites during Placemaking in Phoenix Public Spaces: Arizona State Fairgrounds & Margaret T. Hance Park, happening Tuesday, April 5, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at The McKinley Club located at 800 North First Avenue.

Hear tales of local architecture and design during Arizona Storytellers: Modern Phoenix Architecture and Design at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6.

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