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ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST: THE STORY OF WILL BRUDER

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It's an odd building made of curving, billowing, colliding pieces. There's at least a distant reverberation of Soleri in it. Seen through a windshield several hundred feet away--which is the normal way we read architecture in Phoenix--it's a jungle of forms extruding, bumping, grinding. It's part pillbox, part airplane hangar, part airplane. It isn't beautiful; it is very interesting.

For Bruder, "interesting" is almost enough. He likes to tell a story about the Cholla Branch building that preceded this one. A cop, he says, stopped a woman for "cruising" at Metrocenter--she'd illegally driven past the same spot three times. "I was just trying to find the library," she pleaded.

"Library?" asked the cop. He'd never noticed it.
The new building won't evaporate from anyone's memory, particularly after venturing inside. It's a demonstration of Bruder's concept of luxury: not refined or fancy materials, not heart-pounding spaces, but stuffed with fetching architectural ideas.

The exposed air-conditioning ducts--a Bruder trademark--weave and writhe on the ceiling like boas with stomach cramps. Exposed electrical conduits snake vertically up the sides of the information booth, twisted into a sculpture by Bruder himself one May morning at 6 a.m. The checkout line is suggested by a sinuous yellow brick road--better, says Bruder, than channeling the crowds with ropes or barriers, which would subtly establish an authoritarian mood.

All the weaving and snaking happen downstairs, with the videos and Danielle Steel books. Upstairs, in adult nonfiction, the ducts are arrow-straight. "This is a serious place of learning!" explains Bruder, at least half-seriously.

Bruder has one other library under his belt, the Mesquite Branch at 4525 East Paradise Village Parkway North. Built in 1979, it's much less ambitious--and much less successful. It's all one room, 6,000 square feet under a sloping, concrete-beamed roof loosely inspired by the famous drafting room at Taliesin West. But this room, unlike Taliesin, and unlike Bruder's later work, is gray and dark. It begs for more color and daylight. Bruder is unrepentant; he still likes it.

The Paradise Valley house (its owners don't want their names published) is lovely. Imagine a triangular stone-and-copper hang glider poised for launch on a mountainside, then think of it lowering its wings and folding into the mountain so that it doesn't call attention to itself. Inside are exhilarating spaces--even the laundry room has a towering ceiling and a clerestory window with a dramatic view--and more signs of an obsessive Bruder. The study, for example, features a long, built-in, white oak desk shaped like a parallelogram. Bruder worried that the owner might buy an ordinary rectangular blotter to put on it, which would devastate the room, so he designed a parallelogrammatic blotter.

In the guest bathroom, as Bruder recalls, the building inspector turned to him and said, "Gotcha--no exhaust fan." But of course there was one; Bruder had craftily concealed it in an oaken slot over the john.

There is craftiness--no, it's art--even in Bruder's inner-city warehouse buildings. Offices in the Streech Electrical Company, 1425 East Washington, have inch-wide sliver windows that spray mysterious daylight onto galvanized steel panels. At night, from the alley out back, red neon lights glow through these slits, "just like a brothel," as Bruder mischievously explains.

Why bother to design a view that nobody but bums and prowlers will ever see? "Why not?" retorts Bruder. "Buildings don't have backs."

One other trademark of Bruder's design work is the use of materials, usually everyday ones, in unexpected contexts. A fence around a Northeast Phoenix house is made of three-quarter-inch rebar. The hallway in the IMCOR building is paneled with aluminum truck siding; walking down this hallway, you get this strangely kinetic feeling--you're used to seeing this stuff hurtling along at 75 miles an hour.

Explains Bruder, "I'm sure this comes from my background in sculpture. To me, there's nothing as poetic as the infinite possibilities of materials."

Driving past a freeway construction site, Bruder spots a parked truck with a load of curved steel drainpipes. "Look at those things!" he practically shouts. "They're beautiful!"

In a way, yes. Good thing, too. They may show up inside the Central Library.

A month ago Tucson opened its new Main Library, a $22 million white marble mausoleum--the description preferred by a majority of the infuriated citizens who've written letters to editors--designed by Anderson DeBartolo Pan Inc., Arizona's largest architectural firm.

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Lawrence W. Cheek