Chandler City Hall: Spurring Future Development

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The recently opened, award-winning Chandler City Hall in Arizona, a $47 million complex that covers two city blocks, seeks to express the new economy that has come to this "Old West" town. Founded in 1912, the town of Chandler spent its early decades as a quiet agricultural and ranching community. More recently, it has experienced a population boom and expanded its economic base to include electronics and manufacturing. As Chandler extended its town borders, it was also forced to decentralize its municipal offices, which came to occupy various leased spaces.

Chandler City Hall: Spurring Future Development Credit: SmithGroup

In 2008, the City of Chandler selected SmithGroup to design a campus that could house all of the city services and administrative offices, to be located at South Arizona Avenue (the town’s main arterial street) and Chicago Street. SmithGroup saw the opportunity to create a true civic center. “Civic projects give a lot back to the community,” says Mark Roddy, AIA, LEED AP, design principal at SmithGroup. “The City of Chandler recognized this and set high goals for the project: embracing sustainability, enhancing the downtown area, and making Arizona Avenue more appealing to developers." The finished Chandler City Hall is a 137,700 sq. ft. (approx. 12,793 m2) facility that includes council chambers, administrative offices, a public television studio, an art gallery, public lobbies, and a 330-space parking garage.

“The City of Chandler recognized this and set high goals for the project: embracing sustainability, enhancing the downtown area, and making Arizona Avenue more appealing to developers.” Mark Roddy, SmithGroup

The programmatic elements of the Chandler City Hall campus are separated into building volumes that are pushed to the edge of the site and arranged around a plaza. The plaza provides a gathering space and promotes walkability, which is a central aim of the design. A modern portico with metal columns shades walkways across the complex, keeping the exterior spaces comfortable in the hot desert climate. Palms and other tall desert trees also shade the plaza. From the double-height lobby of the office tower, a bridge and mezzanine lead to an outdoor patio that is shaded by the tower itself. “You can use this space as an employee break area, for city receptions, or as an event venue. Because it’s streetside, you can see activity up here from the sidewalks below. And if the city ever needs extra office space, this area was designed to be enclosed,” says Roddy. Pedestrians are also within easy walking distance of the historic downtown center, nearby Dr. A. J. Chandler Park, the library, and other community amenities.

Night view of Chandler City Hall in Arizona by SmithGroup

The five-story office tower of the Chandler City Hall complex is enhanced by rectilinear edges and layered planes; by contrast, other major structures on the site are curvilinear. Angled translucent glass panels surround the council chambers, emphasizing the building’s importance and adding an element of beauty that was intended to express the community’s sense of pride. In plan, the council chambers building is laid out along a curve, and a sinuous lobby encloses the chamber floor. Even the chamber ceiling undulates over the floor below. Glass was used throughout the complex to promote a sense of openness and transparency. Natural materials, particularly the stone cladding of the office tower, link the building to its surroundings.

Site plan drawing of Chandler City Hall in Arizona by SmithGroup

An important piece of civic art is “Turbulent Shade,” commissioned by the city and produced by artist Ned Kahn. A functional sunshade, this "second skin" moves with the wind to create a vibrant and animated facade. To form the shade, a series of rods span a wide section of the western elevation, and suspended across the length of each rod are small (6” x 21”) panels of perforated stainless steel. The shade reflects light in the daytime and is lit by colored LEDs at night. A smaller version of the shade is installed on the eastern elevation.

Sunshades are also utilized along the southern facade. According to the SmithGroup website, extensive daylighting analysis was performed to determine a depth, spacing, and tilt that would reduce glare and solar gain. The careful planning of daylighting, along with other green design strategies such as water-efficient landscaping and the use of low-VOC materials, should allow the project to earn LEED Gold certification.

Exterior detail of Chandler City Hall in Arizona by SmithGroupInterior of Chandler City Hall in Arizona by SmithGroup

The new city hall has given Chandler’s downtown an infusion of economic and civic energy and is expected to spur future development as well as to revitalize the historic center of the town.

Chandler City Hall by SmithGroup
Kristin Dispenza

Kristin graduated from The Ohio State University in 1988 with a B.S. in architecture and a minor in English literature. Afterward, she moved to Seattle, Washington, and began to work as a freelance design journalist, having regular assignments with Seattle’s Daily Journal of Commerce.

After returning to Ohio in 1995, her freelance activities expanded to include writing for trade publications and websites, as well as other forms of electronic media. In 2011, Kristin became the managing editor for

Kristin has been a features writer for since January 2010. Some of her articles include:

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