Scottsdale Civic Center by

2024 Public Projects / USA / Built in 2023 /

Problem For the 9-acre Scottsdale Civic Center, the Landscape Architect (LA) led all site renovation, coordinating with the architect, civil engineer, and programming consultant to integrate event elements within a responsive site design. The design goal was to inject new vitality into a cherished civic space and position it for a vibrant new chapter. The design also addressed aging infrastructure, ADA accessibility issues, overall walkability and incorporated performance technology with free WIFI for all.
Solution Scottsdale Civic Center (SCC) was reimagined as a multifaceted destination, meeting a variety of community needs as a nucleus for social, cultural, and recreational activities. The result is a harmonious blend of heritage preservation, environmental sustainability, and innovative design. Seamlessly integrating old and new; the space honors the past and embraces the future. In its first year SCC received 1.1 million visits, up from the prior year by 17.2%.


A detailed analysis of space and usage patterns with online public engagement sessions (during COVID) were conducted to ensure the revamped Center aligned with community aspirations and identity. The approach revolved “preserve, enhance, and transform” mentality; preserving beloved historic features, enhancing areas that required change, and transforming spaces that no longer served their purpose. The goal was to reinterpret history in a way that resonated with contemporary sensibilities. The design team integrated fluid architecture and sitework forms inspired by the shape of prevalent turquoise from Old Town Scottsdale, that complemented the historic Bennie Gonzales buildings. Integrating new underground utilities with high-tech A/V systems and performance lighting along with major placemaking revitalization was complex, requiring the team to smoothly collaborate in detail from day one to produce an event-ready venue.

Social Elements

The meticulous planning and development of the Scottsdale Civic Center involved a collaborative approach with stakeholders, including the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottdale’s Tourism and Events Department and the Scottsdale Library. The project team gathered extensive public input to ensure inclusivity in the redesign.

The revitalization holds immense significance for both the community and the environment. By reimagining the Civic Center, the new design established it as a premier event destination and a central hub for community gatherings. This not only enhances the quality of life for residents but also contributes to the economic and cultural vitality of the region.

A noteworthy addition to the project is the new Children’s Garden, a collaboration with the Scottsdale Library. This transformed a new main entry into the library, creating a direct connection to bring the library outdoors. The Children’s Garden includes a playground and a specimen tree acting as a “reading-tree,” surrounded by a built-up amphitheater edge, providing a unique space for outdoor literary exploration. The Children’s Garden enriches the project, providing a space for young minds to explore and connect with literature in a vibrant outdoor setting.

Environmental Elements

Preserving environmental cooling provided by large shade trees, the design limited turf to specific areas for programming, transitioning everything else to low-water-use landscape. The design eliminated half the previous turf area, removed antiquated water features, and reduced the historic lagoon footprint, saving 5.8 million gallons of water per year. A new interactive water and fog plaza creates cooling, and its discharge fills the existing lagoon to accommodate water evaporation to net even water use.
In both plazas, the team utilized structural soil for water retention and perforated the site drainage pipe to route stormwater to trees without adding cost or maintenance requirements and creating long-term functional benefits. This largely invisible solution allowed for more shade trees to be integrated, keeping the surface hardscape clear for events.
Protecting mature trees was a high priority. The original trees were 50 years old and provided dense shade, a remarkable asset in the Phoenix desert environment. The LA designated tree protection zones, working with the architect and engineer to place infrastructure and new structures to ensure tree root zone protection.

Spatial Elements

Designing a portion of the park on-structure to span the elevated deck over N. Drinkwater Blvd., the team oriented a performance lawn over the space, using structured planting beds already in place to frame the space. New vertical landscape elements (performance stages and trees) frame either side of the on-structure area, and weight was minimized by placing the event lawn area, with a specially engineered growth section, on the structured area.

Architecture offices involved in the design: Lake Flato

Location: 3939 N Drinkwater Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Design year: 2021-2022

Year Completed: 2023


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