Peoria, Arizona

In the political realm, Phoenix generally toes the conservative line. Fortunately, when it comes to civic architecture, the city takes a more progressive stance. A case in point: In 1995, residents celebrated the opening of Will Bruder’s colossal Burton Barr Central Library, which quickly earned icon status in the Valley of the Sun. In the following years, as Phoenix expanded at breakneck speed, prominent Southwest architects were tapped to design a string of branch libraries, many of which have appeared in Architectural Record.

The Sunrise Mountain Library, conceived by the local firm Richärd + Bauer and finished in 2009, marks yet another example of the city’s willingness to embrace singular architecture. Constructed for $7.7 million, the 22,000-square-foot building rises from a partly developed swath of land in Peoria, a municipality in northwestern Phoenix. Surrounded by rows of bland, beige homes, the library adds some much-needed pep to a suburban neighborhood.

This is familiar territory for Richärd + Bauer. In addition to the Sunrise project, the 14-member practice has designed four other libraries on its home turf, including Desert Broom Library [RECORD, January 2006, page 96] and Arabian Library [RECORD, June 2008, page 96]. The firm, paired with Haydon Building Corp, won the Sunrise commission in February 2006. “We were rooting for them from day one,” says David Hunenberg, Peoria’s library manager. “Our residents had put up with a branch library in a high school for 10 years, and we thought they deserved the very best.”

The design team was handed a blank slate: a flat, 4-acre dirt lot in a sprawling development still in the blueprint phase. A park was planned for a site bordering the library. In terms of existing reference points, the architects didn’t have much to work with. “We were faced with this denuded piece of desert,” explains James Richärd, firm principal. Also, the budget was tight. “This was a design-build project,” he says, “which tend to be cost-driven and very sensitive to constructability.” 

In the end, the firm created an economical, distinctive landmark. The low-slung building comprises three shifted bars clad in glass and concrete. On the north, self-supporting 14-by-12-foot tilt-up slabs are spaced several feet apart, permitting views. In contrast, the southern facade, which fronts a road and drainage area, features a band of tightly stitched panels. All of the slabs have an attractive rough-hewn surface — a clever manipulation of a prosaic material.

The library’s most striking feature is its undulating roof, which extends slightly beyond the exterior walls. The roof actually consists of three parts. Two rolling planes, supported by steel columns, float above the outer bars. A flat roof, held up by concrete masonry walls, covers the central bar and accommodates mechanical equipment.

The roof’s wavy form was inspired by Lake Pleasant, a popular nearby attraction. This aquatic theme is evident in other parts of the building. Evoking boat portholes, circular cutouts are found in roof overhangs and concrete slabs. The designers also used blue-tinted glass throughout. Richärd notes that the library’s cool color palette — charcoal, azure, sage — is a departure for his firm. “It’s very different from our traditional Southwestern response,” he says.

The building’s layout is relatively straightforward. A recessed main entrance leads into the central volume, where visitors find just-released books, computers, and, at the rear, a teen zone. The south bar houses the adult area and multipurpose room, while the children’s zone and administrative functions occupy the north volume. Shaded, Wi-Fi-enabled courtyards provide pleasant areas for retreat.

The facility has a hip vibe, due in large part to funky lounge chairs and bold artwork. It also boasts a number of green features, and its LEED Silver certification is pending.

Hunenberg says the library’s new home is a hit with residents. Circulation is up 108 percent, and thousands of additional patrons are streaming in each month. “I’ve not heard one negative comment, not even from people who don’t like contemporary architecture,” he adds. The sole downer: The recession has stalled development in the area, and it’s unclear when the planned park will be built. For now, the library overlooks a depressing vacant lot.

Despite the lackluster view, Sunrise Mountain Library is an exuberant landmark that serves a vital public function in a budding community. Richärd + Bauer has succeeded in creating another civic gem for the expansive Valley of the Sun.

Richärd + Bauer
1545 W. Thomas Road
Phoenix, AZ 85015

Location: Peoria, Arizona

Completion Date: January 2009

Gross square footage: 22,000 sq.ft.

Total construction cost: $7.7 million


City of Peoria

Richärd + Bauer
1545 W. Thomas Road
Phoenix, AZ 85015

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Architectural Designer:
James Richärd, AIA

Project Manager + Interior Design:
Kelly Bauer, FIIDA

Principal Project Architect:
Stephen Kennedy, AIA, NCARB

Construction Administration:
Will Craig, RA

Project Architect
Andy Timberg, RA, LEED AP
Ben Perrone, AIA, LEED AP

Interior designer
Kelly Bauer, FIIDA

Electrical Engineer: OMB Electrical Engineers, Inc.

Mechanical/Plumbing Engineer: Kunka Engineering

Structural Engineer: Schneider Structural Engineering

Civil Engineer: PK Kland Consulting Civil Engineers

Landscape: C.F. Shuler

General contractor: Haydon Building Corp

Bill Timmerman
Timmerman Photography, Inc.
(602) 420-9325

CAD system, project management, or other software used
Auto CAD 2000, SketchUp



Exterior cladding
Masonry: Trenwyth Mesastone

Metal/glass curtainwall: Arcadia, Inc.

Concrete Title Panels: Riggs Contracting

Elastomeric/ metal cald: Siplast Veral Aluminum

Plastic Glazing: 3form

Entrances: Arcadia, Inc.

Entrance doors: Stanley Duraglide

Sliding Interior Doors: Kawneer

Locksets: Schlage

Hinges: Arcadia, Inc.

Closers: LCN, Horton, Stanley

Exit devices: Von Duprin

Pulls: Arcadia, Inc.

Security devices: Best

Interior finishes
Suspension grid: Armstrong

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Castaldi Custom Co.

Paints and stains: ICI Paints

Wallcoverings: FabriTRAK with Knoll textiles

Paneling: Sierra Pine Composite Solutions

Plastic laminate: Wilsonart

Special surfacing: Corian, 3form

Floor and wall tile: rest-room walls: Dal-Tile

Carpet: Shaw

Raised flooring: ASM Modular Systems

Steelcase, Herman Miller, Neinkamper, Wausau, Geiger Internationationl, Hickory Business Furniture (HBF), Landscape Forms

Maharam, Pallas, DesignTex, Architex, Knoll Textiles


Interior ambient lighting: Pinnacle Architectural Lighting