A Building Renovation - Blending Modern Standards with Historical Design

Monday, August 9, 2021
Phoenix College A Building - Exterior Under Renovation
Federal Works Agency Plaque on A Building
Image of original blue print for A Building
Construction Crew installing new energy-efficient windows
Ongoing Renovation and Restoration - Crew Worker inside building
Image of new hallway design and vinyl tile pieces
Image of new bathroom design with ceramic tiles
Image of recovered hardwood floors
Image of wooden trusses on second floor during renovation

When Phoenix College moved to its current location at 15th Avenue and Thomas Road, one of the first buildings constructed was aptly named – Building A.

Preservation of History

The A Building was originally constructed with President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” Works Progress Administration (WPA) fund during the Great Depression. It stands as a testament to the marvelous architecture of the time, both a mixture of Neo-Classical design with its rhythm of windows, straight lines, and pitched roof complimented only by the Art Deco style of fluted columns and radius tops on the building entries.

Though stately in appearance, the building is worn in some areas and needs a technology facelift to meet the needs of current students. Therefore, the historic A Building will become the first original Phoenix College building to undergo a complete renovation.

The 1930s building design will be preserved. The original red-bricks were repaired and replaced as needed on the façade, and the Neo Classical and Art Deco influences of the building were kept in mind during the design process. The A Building is also being upgraded with energy-efficient windows, modeled in the style of the original 1939 windows.

Meeting Modern Standards

While the outside of the building is reminiscent of earlier times, once inside, students will experience a modern meets classic approach.  The A Building was razed to the exterior red-brick walls and the entire inside of the building will be fully renovated. Though the heating and cooling systems were updated in the 1960s, most of the plumbing and electrical infrastructure are original to the building.

There will be modern LED (light emitting diode) lighting, all new plumbing, electrical and heating throughout. Students and faculty will enjoy a fully-modern experience, with high speed internet, technologically advanced teaching stations and screens. New adaptive collaboration spaces are designed to bring students together.

The once tunnel-like dark hallways are being opened up to bring in more natural light. New inlaid vinyl tile, with contrasting layers of geometric shapes, with a nod to design choices of the 1930s, will be installed piece by piece on floors, giving the hallways a modern interpretation of the Art Deco period.

Originally, the A Building was built with two bathrooms. Women utilized the first floor and men used the facility on the second floor. Forty years ago, more bathrooms were added. With the current renovation, additional restrooms are being added, including family restrooms on each floor.

Balancing Form with Function

There are three architectural features inside the building which are being preserved. During demolition, the crew carefully uncovered the original hardwood floors on the second level, long since covered by other flooring materials. The wood floors will be expertly refurbished and adorn the new mathematics offices. The original roof structure of the A Building was exposed in the second-floor lecture halls to showcase the hand-built wooden trusses and original red brick. The now lofted ceilings will bring in more natural light through the tall angular classroom windows. Another feature of the Art Deco style being preserved is the original brown concrete staircases.

“I am excited because this is the first original building to be completely renovated and restored. It’s important to me to preserve the essence of what Phoenix College is and that certainly starts with the look and feel of the campus.” – Doug McCarthy, Phoenix College Director of Operations

Throughout its 82-year history, the A Building has served thousands of students and faculty. In Fall 2021, a new group of students will enter the halls and begin their educational journeys.

The official A Building Grand Re-Opening and Ribbon-Cutting ceremony is scheduled for January 2022. Stay tuned to the Phoenix College website for more details.