BIG architects: phoenix observation tower
BIG architects: phoenix observation tower BIG architects: phoenix observation tower
dec 20, 2012
BIG architects: phoenix observation tower

‘phoenix observation tower’ by BIG architects
all images courtesy of BIG architects




the capital city of arizona, USA will be receiving a new addition to its city skyline in the form of a large 70,000 square foot observation tower designed by BIG architects. a project commission by local developer novawest, the observatory is set to be a destination for tourists and city citizens alike, to enjoy the ‘valley of the sun’.


the tall slender reinforced concrete structure, whose principle feature is a large spiralling sphere at its top, stands as a metaphorical representation of a pin – as if marking a point on a map. the winding area can be reached via three glass elevators, connecting the base with its summit where panoramic views of the city and its surrounding landscape can be taken in. walking down the spiraling promenade, one is able to experience all of the tower’s programs which include flexible exhibition, retail and recreational spaces. the separation of these elements do not occur through physical vertical barrier walls, but rather progressively through the slight sloping and height difference of its pathway, preserving a continuity throughout.


instead of a constant width, the helical walkway begins from zero at the point of arrival, reaching its maximum at the middle, and shrinking back to zero at the point of departure. once visitors have reached the centre of the sphere, they can either choose to conclude their trip or continue to the restaurant levels at the lower hemisphere. the motion of navigating around it being much like that of a journey through the centre of a planet, traveling from north to south. a public plaza will be situated at ground level offering shade, water features and small retail shops with a subterranean queuing area. the new landmark will serve as a working model of sustainable energy practice, incorporating a blend of solar and other technologies.

BIG phoenix observation tower
aerial view of the sprialing promenade




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. BIG has delivered something exceptional, blending form and function in a way that will change the local skyline forever and will give visitors a once-in-a-lifetime experience.‘ – brian stowell, novawest.


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. like the guggenheim museum of new york 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. 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.’ – bjarke ingels, founding partner, BIG.

BIG phoenix observation tower
the division of space is subtle, dictated by the gentle sloping and gradual height changes of the winding walkway

BIG phoenix observation tower
the tower programs include a flexible gallery, retail and recreation spaces

terrace bar and café

BIG phoenix observation tower

BIG phoenix observation tower
the summit of the tower can be accessed by three glass elevators

BIG phoenix observation tower
BIG’s structure will stand as a metaphorical pin, as if marking a point on a map

BIG phoenix observation tower

BIG phoenix observation tower

BIG phoenix observation tower
navigating through the space makes visitors feel as if they are taking a journey through the center of a planet

models of the spherical structure

model depicting the gradual sloping of the promenade

general view

worm’s-eye view

model detail


BIG phoenix observation tower
diagram of the sloping structure




BIG phoenix observation tower
diagram illustrating the tower’s location and outlook



BIG phoenix observation tower
visual breakdown of the programs



project info:


name: phoenix observation tower
type: commission
size: 70,000 sqf        
client: novawest
collaborators: MKA (structure), atelier10 (sustainability), gensler (local architect), teneyck (landscape)
location: phoenix, arizona
country: USA
partner in charge: bjarke ingels and thomas christoffersen
project leader: iannis kandyliaris
team: thomas fagan, aaron hales, ola hariri, dennis harvey, beat schenk

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bjarke ingels group / BIG (155 articles)