Arizona State University Beus Center for Law & Society
Law education embedded in the community
The Beus Center for Law and Society at Arizona State University reinterprets the role of law schools in contemporary society through radical accessibility. Dedicated to educating students and citizens alike on the importance of law in shaping our world, the modern facility advances this mission as the home for the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and legal services such as a public interest law clinic and the nation’s first not-for-profit teaching law firm. Along with Ennead Architects, Jones Studio leveraged the building’s location in Downtown Phoenix to connect deeply with the public realm, serving as a vessel for the school’s progressive legal scholarship to the community at large.
Informed by the surrounding urban character, the site is activated through the building massing and the transparency of ground-level lobbies and gathering spaces. The courtyard form is carved out like a canyon, creating an inviting, open passage that intensifies the connection to public space. A large digital media mesh display frames this space, announcing events, news, and other important information to the general public. Attached at the center of this path is the heart of the building: a series of double-height spaces, stacked vertically and visible to the exterior, that embodies the center’s goal to form a new relationship with its community.
These central spaces include a roof-level exterior court, the college’s main law library, and the Great Hall at the ground level. With a direct connection to the exterior pedestrian path via a custom bi-folding glass wall and retractable stadium seating, the Great Hall acts as a flexible lecture hall and traditional public forum by providing space for people to be seen and heard. Immediately above the Great Hall is the library, where bookstacks and study spaces serve as the primary circulation paths and promote intellectual exchange. Atop these stacked spaces is the shaded rooftop garden, providing outdoor social space in the center of the bustling urban campus.
©Aislinn Weidele/Ennead Architects
Surrounding these larger public rooms are the instructional and work spaces that support the educational functions of the building. The east wing holds the lecture halls, classrooms, and faculty offices, while the narrower west wing houses the college administration and the legal clinic. Open-air walkways stitch the two wings of the building together across the courtyard, connecting these double height spaces with the reading room to the north and think tank spaces to the south. With each wing clad in a self-shading facade of bronze aluminum, glass, and Arizona sandstone, the envelope responds to solar orientation while balancing the interior’s heat gain, glare, and daylighting needs.
The exterior and interior are further linked together by a set of sustainable strategies and palette of modern, warm, and welcoming materials to produce a healthy indoor environment. Spaces of all sizes and functions, from the moot courtroom to individual offices, are generously lit with natural light and energy-efficient lighting. The underfloor air distribution system in the larger classrooms and chilled beams in the smaller offices provide energy-efficient cooling in the desert climate. Black walnut millwork is accentuated by vibrant crimson tones and contrasted by simple white ceilings bringing light deep into the interior. These details contribute to the greater success of the Beus Center for Law & Society to build bridges with the people it seeks to serve.