Owner/Developer Maricopa County Community College District
General Contractor Okland Construction
Lead Design Firm Architekton
Structural Engineer PK Associates
Civil Engineer Hess Rountree
MEP Engineer Energy Systems Design
Landscape Architect Colwell Shelor
Concrete Suntec Concrete
Technology Consultant The Sextant Group

Scottsdale Community College's campus sits on land belonging to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and is leased from the tribe on a long-term basis. A longstanding commitment by the college to provide a cultural center for the tribe, in combination with a need for expanded space for the business school, made for an unusual design challenge.

The 31,000-sq-ft building includes classrooms for business students, an accounting and statistics learning center, and faculty offices. The Indigenous Cultural Center includes a large meeting room, private study rooms and shared spaces dedicated to teaching Native American culture, history and current events. An outdoor gathering area with a permanent performance circle provides an outlet for hosting events and activities for the community, while creating a space for student interaction.

The project’s distinctive feature is the saguaro-rib design element that is embedded into the 16-ft-tall structural panels. The concept emerged from user group meetings of tribe members, students and faculty, facilitated by architects and contractors. The saguaro, the largest species of cactus, holds an important place in the tribe’s belief system.

Each skeletonized saguaro rib was fastened to the reveal side of the formwork with a thin layer of sand brushed between the ribs to keep the concrete from submerging the entire rib. This produced a three-dimensional look wherein the ribs are encompassed within the concrete wall. “Some ribs seeped into the panels, some fell out; beautiful texture remained—almost fossilization,” says Eric Sterner, a project designer at Architekton.

Suntec waited about two months after pouring and tilting the panels before burning away the remaining loose ribs. “Each rib was carefully burned one at a time to ensure accuracy in the design,” says Saul Estopeyan, Suntec foreman. “This technique was quite challenging, yet fascinating.”

ENR's Best of the Best Projects 2018