At 50, Scottsdale City Hall remains true to community’s vision

A view of Scottsdale City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd. (file photo)

Dignified. Distinctive. Reflective of the Southwest and the Spirit of Scottsdale.

Those were the goals when a growing community sought to build a new local government center in the mid-1960s.

More than five decades later, Scottsdale City Hall retains that vision and anchors a scenic public spaces in Arizona. Scottsdale City Hall opened in October 1968. Arizona architect Bennie Gonzales’ design for the building, the adjacent Civic Center Library and the surrounding open space beat out 35 other proposals.

City Hall, the library and those open spaces — now known as the Civic Center Mall — were designed to be special.

Scottsdale City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd., was built in 1968.  (Photo courtesy of Scottsdale Public Library)

The open chamber of City Hall, patterned after the Hopi Indians’ ceremonial Kiva, was a symbolic nod to Native American culture and accessible government.

Seven pieces of public art were a part of the project — including the stunning faceted glass skylights that bathe City Hall with muted natural sunlight. The inch-thick glass panes were designed by noted artist Glidden Parker and installed by Scottsdale’s Glassart Studios.

The imposing metal wind chime that hangs from the ceiling of City Hall was also part of that original artwork. It was designed by Scottsdale architect and urban visionary Palo Soleri.

Soleri died in 2013 at age 93, but his legacy lives on in his nearby studio and the iconic Downtown Scottsdale bridge that he designed and bears his name.

Other public art pieces that were part of the City Hall project reside outside on the Civic Center Mall, ranked annually among the most beautiful and popular public spaces in Arizona.

They include “Woman Spearing Fish” and “Don Quixote,” located in the pond in front of City Hall and “Mother and Child,” located in the Mayer Memorial Garden north of the building.

Art has taken on other forms through the years at City Hall. Its spacious “Kiva” space hosted concerts, plays and children programs before the opening of the library and the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

City Hall has even hosted a little of the Old West. In the 1970s, the Hashknife Pony Express riders delivered mail directly to the Mayor at City Hall — horses clomping down the same hallways used today for more tame and traditional community business.

The entire 14-acre Civic Center complex cost $2.54 million in 1968. The mall has been expanded and renovated several times since, as has City Hall.

The spirit and the vision of those residents who first conceived the project, however, live on.

Editor’s Note: Mike Phillips is the city of Scottsdale’s public affairs manager.

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