2021 AIA Small Project Awards: Xero Studio by Studio Ma
Architecture Firm(s): Studio Ma, Inc.
Owner: Studio Ma
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Category: Up to $1.5 million in construction cost (category two)
Matching the values of its architecture practice, where regenerative bioclimatic design and social equity are at the forefront, this architecture studio replaces an undistinguished and inefficient dentist office in Phoenix. For the project, the team held itself to the same standards as its clients, reusing existing materials and shaping an office that is net-zero energy and water while encouraging walking and cycling, a significant challenge in the car-dominated desert city.
“Opportunity to experiment with land, water, and shading strategies with intuitive uses of the exterior void spaces. A well-balanced project with great curb appeal and community inspiration.” – Jury comment
For years, the firm had been operating in a leased space in downtown Phoenix. Compelled to manifest its values through its office space, it turned to a lower-cost location closer to where many of its staff members live. In addition, the firm sought a space that would be more reflective of its team-oriented, egalitarian structure that would also minimize the pitfalls, chiefly ambient noise and different thermal comfort levels, of open office arrangements.
“A strong project with minimal intervention to transform a utilitarian structure into an excellent innovative product,” said the jury. “Opportunity to experiment with land, water, and shading strategies with intuitive uses of the exterior void spaces. A well-balanced project with great curb appeal and community inspiration.”
The selected property allows staff members to arrive by bicycle as weather permits, and bicycle parking awaits them at the studio’s porches. While the original structure relied heavily on constant air conditioning to keep it comfortable, the team looked to the Living Building Challenge for sustainable design strategies.
“A strong project with minimal intervention to transform a utilitarian structure into an excellent innovative product” – Jury comment
After stripping the building down to its shell and reusing most of the existing masonry, the team carefully recycled as much of the building material as possible. The project raised the walls to 15 feet high, boosting acoustics and comfort. A set of skylights works in concert with the office’s front doors to create a chimney effect and provide natural ventilation for the majority of the year. The team is piloting a system that converts black water to potable to achieve net-zero water, while photovoltaics net out its energy use.
A scrim of Kebonized wood fins surrounds the studio’s exterior on three sides, helping to reduce heat and glare. A tall hedge planted close to the remaining side provides additional shade. Inside, the studio relies on natural light for much of the year, but the staff areas have been placed away from the glare and heat of west-facing windows.
In this project, the firm’s ethos of architecture for everyone considers the well-being of its staff just as carefully as the betterment of the public realm. Ample gathering space is available for staff meals and to build camaraderie, and the studio’s porches help deliver nature to the work environment. The building’s sculptural form elicits a push-pull with the grounds and street, highlighting the firm’s architectural philosophies.
Engineer – Civil: Jacobs Wallace
Engineer – MP: GLHN
Engineer – Electrical: Woodward Engineering
Engineer – Structural: Pangolin
General Contractor: Vista General
Landscape Architect: Floor Associates
Bhaskar Srivastava, AIA, (Chair), dencityworks, Brooklyn, NY
Kevin Erickson, School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL
Jonah Stanford, AIA, NeedBased, Santa Fe, NM
Janeen Harrell, AIA, Janeen Harrel Architect, GREC Architects, Chicago, IL