Blank Studio Design + Architecture

Social Condenser for Superior

Superior, Arizona, USA (2006 – 2007)

The Social Condenser project is located at the base of the Superstition Mountain Range in the Town of Superior, Arizona. This small berg was founded in 1882 and has strong ties to mining of copper, silver and gold. The project is uniquely positioned between historic Main Street and Queen Creek. The site consists of two parcels, the project parcel to the north, and an open landscaped parcel to be developed into future outdoor dining and a music pavilion.  Both parcels are bisected by an access path from the upper street level and a lower wooden footbridge that spans the creek.  

The project is a renovation and expansion of an existing two-story block building with the addition of an exterior dining terrace. The lower level is developed into kitchen, mechanical, and storage spaces, while the upper level is designed as an open gathering space. The south-facing wall of the upper level of the existing building was removed to expose the volume within. The remaining form is rendered to closely match the shadow tones of the surrounding hills and acts as both backdrop and anchor for the new addition.

The project was informed by the concept of the “public house”. Classically an obscured, introverted diagram, the Social Condenser conversely aims to balance concealment with exuberant exposure of the internal activities to the streetscape, the pedestrian walking path, and the adjacent landscaped parcel. The project is envisioned to be the living room of the community; a place to congregate, socialize, view work of provincial artists, and enjoy the breathtaking landscape vistas that envelop the region.    

The exterior of the building evokes movement as the new form of the project nestles into its site condition. Clad entirely in engineered wood planking, made from recycled wood and plastic, the formidable mass of northeastern end of the new terrace is mitigated by undercutting the form and creating a hyperbolic parabola surface. This form is counterbalanced by a parabolic surface that sweeps outward towards the southwest and is bracketed by the stair volume.


Client: Superior C.O.A.L.; Alan + Christine Benoit

Status: Construction complete – 2007

Project Team: Michael Powell + Stefan Richter

Photography: Bill Timmerman