Beus Center for Law and Society at Arizona State University

The building’s corners lift upwards in a welcoming gesture. Vertical sawtooth elements clad with Arizona sandstone alternate with glazing, creating an undulating effect. Photography by Bill Timmerman

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After years on the suburban Tempe, Arizona, campus of Arizona State University (ASU), the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law elected to engage with a more urban environment and its people. Under the leadership of Dean Douglas Sylvester, the school now occupies the new Beus Center for Law and Society (BCLS) on ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus. Designed by New York–based Ennead Architects in association with Tempe-based Jones Studio, the six- story 280,000-square-foot BCLS building reinvents the model for legal education, creates a social center for the campus, and encourages students to connect with faculty, the downtown legal community, and the public.

Ennead’s portfolio includes projects for many high-ranking law schools—Columbia, Harvard, and Pennsylvania State, to name a few. Jones Studio, which oversaw the design of BCLS’s interiors, also provided a deep understanding of the special demands placed upon desert architecture. “Our team wanted to make an incredible place. Dean Sylvester’s mission was to convey that the ivory tower of legal education had to meet the street,” says Tomas Rossant, AIA, the design partner who led the Ennead team. “The average American must understand why the law matters in his or her life, and faculty members had to get out of their comfort zones and reconnect legal thinking to the troubles of the average citizen.”

A communal heart for the campus

The BCLS building is divided into two volumes. A slender portion to the west contains administration areas and the ASU Alumni Law Group—the country’s first nonprofit teaching law firm associated directly with a law school. The larger volume to the east houses lecture halls, a library, and other academic spaces. Designed to minimize solar heat gain, the exterior features vertical sawtooth elements clad with Arizona sandstone, alternating with glazing that varies in width depending on programmatic needs and solar orientation.

A north-south slice through the building carves out a canyon- like outdoor plaza on the ground level, creating “an urban quad for the downtown campus that allows students from all disciplines to enjoy and occupy the space between the two parts of the building,” says Brian Masuda, AIA, project designer at Ennead. Open-air walkways connect the two volumes on upper levels. Stacked to the east of these pathways are two double-height glazed spaces that form the communal core of the building: the Great Hall on the first floor and an open library atrium on the third floor. Above, a fifth-floor outdoor shaded courtyard is a welcome place to relax.

“We are always looking for ways to boost utilization [of education interiors] by making spaces do double and triple duty,” says Rossant. The Great Hall, for example, features a retractable tiered seating system that allows it to be converted, in less than 20 minutes, from a casual lounge area with bleacher-like seating to a more formal auditorium configuration. When opened, large bi-fold glass doors expand the hall into the outdoor plaza.

The light-filled law library, also available to the public, is designed to appear exceedingly open and democratic. With faculty offices and classrooms surrounding the library, faculty-student interaction has increased exponentially compared to the previous building. “It’s a law library without boundaries,” says Rossant.

Engaging with the world

For the interiors, Jones Studio began the design process with a big-picture view. “We started talking about what it means to be a law student and what they expect from their college,” says Brian Farling, AIA, lead designer at Jones Studio. “That evolved into a conversation of ‘What does it mean to have heft and gravitas?’” The resulting interiors reinterpret the law school archetype of dark tones in a modern way while also drawing inspiration from desert landscapes and the colors in sunsets. Walnut wood screening elements, polished concrete floors with visible aggregate, and striated carpet patterns reference local geology. Walls are painted in varying warm gray tones, and accent colors are rich, earthy shades of red, orange, and purple.

In the few months since it has opened, the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s new home has proved an important asset in attracting new students. According to the college administration, applications are up 33 percent compared to recent years.

“We recruit a unique breed of students and faculty that are ready to rise to the challenges we have set,” says Thomas Williams, assistant dean for academic affairs and the institution. “Our new building doesn’t just facilitate this by being beautiful with state-of-the-art technology and great classrooms, but it calls to the students that want to be engaged with the community and the world.”

who Architects: Tomas Rossant/Ennead Architects, in association with Jones Studio. Ennead project team: Tomas Rossant; Timothy Hartung; Felicia Berger; Brian Masuda; M. Gregory Clawson; Michael Caton; Alfonso Gorini; Wanlika Kaewkamchand; Eliza Montgomery; Adam Sheridan; Natasha Skogerboe; Brent Stringfellow; Margaret Tyrpa; Joanna Williams. Jones Studio project team: Brian Farling; Neal Jones; Jacob Benyi; Dan Childers; Eddie Curiel; Melissa Farling; Aaron Forbes; Rob Huff; Eddie Jones; Joanna Noonan; Bill Osborne; Maria Salenger; Eric Watson. Engineering: Buro Happold Engineering (MEP, structural, sustainability, and lighting design); Dibble Engineering (civil). Landscape: Colwell Shelor Landscape Architecture. Geotechnical: Ninyo & Moore. AV/telecom/ acoustics: McKay Conant Hoover; JBA Consulting Engineers. Graphics: Poulin + Morris. Code: Hughes Associates. Cost estimating: Construction Cost Management Consultancy. Parking: Walker Parking Consultants. Specifications: Construction Specifications. Renderer: Atchain. Construction Manager: DPR Construction.
what Paint: Sherwin-Williams; PPG. Laminate: Wilsonart. Terrazzo counters: Advance Terrazzo Company. Walls: Georgia Pacific; Quality Block Company; Skyfold. Flooring: Arizona Hardwood Floor Supply; ReSource Arizona; Daltile; Shaw Contract Group. Ceilings: Hunter Douglas Contract. Lighting: Axis Lighting; USAI; Luminii; Lighting Services; Vode; Columbia Lighting; Lumenpulse; Vode; Architectural Area Lighting. Hardware: Stanley; Best; Assa Abloy; Trimco; NGP; Pemko. Doors: Doors In Motion; Cookson/Cornell; Commercial Door Manufacturing; Marshfield Door Systems; Renlita Custom Openings. Glass: Viracon Glass; Arcadia; 3form. Window treatments: MechoShade Systems. Workstations: Geiger; Herman Miller. Seating: Herman Miller; Geiger; Arcadia; Loewenstein; Design Within Reach; Moser; Titan Carter Seating Systems; Sedia; Arper. Tables: Spec; Herman Miller; Sedia; Agati; Arcadia; Geiger. Storage: Herman Miller; Geiger; Hollman. Woodworking: ISEC.

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