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Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
Sidney Poitier New American Film School

Creating ASU @ Mesa City Center’s Patterned Terracotta Façade

The building’s terracotta rainscreen system and large-scale media screen will provide a striking presence overlooking the site’s new public green and plaza.

ASU @ Mesa City Center, a joint project between the City of Mesa and Arizona State University, will provide a cross-disciplinary environment for the next generation of cinematic and digital storytellers at Arizona State, housing programs from the Sidney Poitier New American Film School and Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Designed in collaboration with Holly Street Studio, the 118,000 square-foot project is currently under construction and will welcome students for the fall 2022 semester.

Facing onto an adjacent two-acre public plaza, the building façade features an innovative application of terracotta panels, a contextual response to the city’s mid-20th century breeze block municipal buildings and a material choice ideally suited to the hot, arid Mesa climate. The panels form a digital ‘theater curtain’ around the 30’ x 70’ LED media screen that evoke the variability of digital patterns. Recent site visits have documented the ongoing installation of the panels, which each measure 9 ½” x 60” and are assembled in three profiles. The panels’ light tone and varied pattern respond to shifting light throughout the day.

Beyond experiential goals, terracotta’s material properties enhance the energy performance of a modern building within the desert climate of Mesa. In a region of plentiful sunshine, hot days and cool nights, the panels absorb and store heat energy during the day, slowly releasing it at night and contributing to more efficient heating and cooling. Cavities within each panel allow air to easily circulate, creating a thermally responsive wrapper around the building. Learn more about construction progress on ASU @ Mesa City Center below.