Designed by Michael Goodwin as a “lantern to the city,” the landmark 1970 Tempe Municipal Building is a metaphor for openness and accessibility in municipal government and emblematic of a progressive community 1.
An inverted pyramid utilizes a passive approach to energy efficiency. All of the building’s glass is shaded, which keeps it cooler in the summer. In colder months the structure’s design traps rising solar heat in the walls and allows it to radiate inward. Another benefit of the inverted pyramid is the amount of ground-level open space it creates, which provides more room for gardens, walkways and outdoor meeting spaces than typical building footprints.
In spite of their benefits (and aesthetic “wow” factor), inverted pyramids are unusual because they are extremely complex to construct. Using structural steel was the only approach that allowed this point-loaded structure to support its own weight. During construction, Sundt used temporary shoring to support the entire weight of the building until the final structure was complete.
The result was worth the effort. According to the Tempe Historic Preservation Office, “The excellent workmanship and attention to detail is what gave this building its character.”
1 Tempe Historic Preservation Office Research Report
City of Tempe
Tempe Municipal Building