South Mountain Community College Performing Arts Center

A beacon for performing arts in south Phoenix


South Mountain Community College


Phoenix, Arizona


43,000 sq ft

Project Team

Few public spaces can create stronger common ties than performing arts centers. People seek out cultural spaces for the sounds and stories that resonate within, and those moments build connections that unite us all. The Performing Arts Center at South Mountain Community College is inspired by this capacity for community by creating a beacon that calls out beyond the borders of the campus.

Set along two edges of an open lawn, the building is oriented to blend into the existing campus through the creation of a new quad and open the performance hall towards the adjacent neighborhood. A bank of multipurpose classrooms anchors the northern edge of the quad and merges into the steel and glass volume of the performing arts center along the east. The metal and glass wrapper transforms from solid to transparent as the building opens for visitors to enter. Louvers of rusted steel extend along the exterior walls to shade the glazing and wall surface, dissipating the radiant heat of the desert sun. At night, the interior glows through the glass between the louvers and appears as a welcoming light leading to the entry.

Inside the steel box houses the main theater and two smaller black box and dance theaters for the school’s growing performing arts programs. Like the case of a string instrument, the rolling wooden and velvet plaster interior of the performance hall contrasts with the rugged steel exterior shell. The hard surfaces of the plaster walls reflect sounds back toward the audience while the undulating surfaces of the eucalyptus veneer distribute the sound throughout the house. Acoustic curtains high in the chamber act in concert with these surfaces to tune the space to a variety of performances. The materials throughout the theater create an ensemble of warmth and light for gathering.

“While going through the process of selecting an architectural firm, our goal was to find people who had energy, passion, experience and creativity. We looked for people who were devoted to listening to our needs, dreams and desires rather than telling us what they thought was best…I’m happy to say Jones Studio totally exceeded our expectations.”

Jerome K. Garrison, Ed.D., Chair of Communication, Fine Arts & Social Sciences of South Mountain Community College

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