Phoenix Observation Tower
by BIG


Danish studio BIG has designed an observation tower shaped like a honey dipper for Phoenix, Arizona (+ slideshow).

Phoenix Observation Tower by BIG

Rising above the downtown city rooftops, the spiralling structure is conceived as a tourist attraction that will contain a continuous series of exhibition spaces, shops and restaurants.

Phoenix Observation Tower by BIG

BIG has nicknamed the structure "The Pin" and the designs show a reinforced concrete tower with three glass elevators to transport visitors from the base of a narrow stalk to the summit of the sphere.

Phoenix Observation Tower by BIG

Just like the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the ArcelorMittal Orbit at London's Olympic Park, visitors will be encouraged to take an elevator to the top then gradually work their way down whilst looking out across the city and nearby mountains.

Phoenix Observation Tower by BIG

"Like the monsoons, the haboobs and the mountains of the surrounding Arizonian landscape, the Pin becomes a point of reference and a mechanism to set the landscape in motion through the movement of the spectator," commented BIG founder Bjarke Ingels. "The motion at the Pin is turned inside-out, allowing visitors to contemplate the surrounding city and landscape of Phoenix."

Phoenix Observation Tower by BIG

To create the spherical shape, the spiralling open-air pathway will be widest at its centre and will taper away at the start and end of the route.

Phoenix Observation Tower by BIG

"Like a heavenly body hovering above the city the Pin will allow visitors to descend from pole to pole in a dynamic three dimensional experience seemingly suspended in midair," said Ingels.

Phoenix Observation Tower by BIG

Restaurants will be located at the base of the sphere, while a new public square surrounded by shops will be positioned at the ground-level entrance.

Phoenix Observation Tower by BIG

In the last week BIG also unveiled plans for two twisted apartment blocks in Miami.

Phoenix Observation Tower by BIG

See all our stories about BIG »

Here's some more information from the architects:

BIG unveils Phoenix Observation Tower

BIG is commissioned by Novawest to design a 420 ft tall mixed-use observation tower to serve as a symbol for the city of Phoenix, Arizona.

Located in downtown Phoenix, the 70,000 sf Observation Tower shall add a significant structure to the Phoenix skyline from which to enjoy the city's spectacular views of the surrounding mountain ranges and dramatic sunsets. Phoenix-based developer Novawest, commissioned the team to create a destination event to provide tourists and citizens of Phoenix alike the chance to enjoy the unique features of the Valley of the Sun.

Phoenix Observation Tower by BIG

Above: simple concept diagram

The future observation tower is conceived as a tall core of reinforced concrete with an open-air spiral sphere at its top, resembling a metaphorical pin firmly marking a location on a map. The spiraling sphere contains flexible exhibition, retail and recreational spaces which are accessed via three glass elevators that connect the base with the summit and offer panoramic views of the city and the tower's programs as visitors ascend or descend.

Walking downwards from the top through a continuous spiral promenade, the visitors of the observation tower experience all of the building's programs in a constant motion, while enjoying dynamic 360 degree views of the city of Phoenix and the Arizonian landscape.

Phoenix Observation Tower by BIG

Above: design concept

The spiral layout combines the different programmatic elements and the circulation into a continuous dynamic twirling space which is proportioned according to the movement of the visitors, producing a unique viewing experience of the surroundings. Instead of a constant width, the spiraling promenade starts from zero at the point of arrival, reaches its maximum width at the middle, and shrinks back to zero at the point of departure. Separation between the programmatic elements within the sphere happens not through physical vertical barrier-walls, but softly through the slope and the height difference to preserve a total continuity and create a flexible space for exhibitions and events.

Once the visitors reach the middle of the sphere, they can choose to either conclude their journey by taking the elevator back to the ground, or continue to the restaurant levels at the lower hemisphere. The motion resembles a journey through the center of a planet, and a travel from the north to the south pole.

The base of the tower will serve as a public plaza offering shade, water features and a small amount of retail together with a subterranean queuing area. The tower will serve as a working model of sustainable energy practices, incorporating a blend of solar and other technologies.

Phoenix Observation Tower by BIG

Above: accommodation diagram

Name: Phoenix Observation Tower
Type: Commission
Size: 70,000 square feet
Client: Novawest
Collaborators: MKA (structure), Atelier10 (sustainability), Gensler (local architect), TenEyck (landscape)
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Country: USA

Partner in Charge: Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Christoffersen
Project Leader: Iannis Kandyliaris
Team: Thomas Fagan, Aaron Hales, Ola Hariri, Dennis Harvey, Beat Schenk

  • Clud

    Looks like a honey stick.

    • Et ta soeur ?

      Good eye! Mind you, it says so in the very first sentence of the article.

  • Balzac

    As someone with vertigo, much contemporary architecture seems designed specifically to terrorise me – balconies and walkways with glass railing at dizzying heights over atrium, cliffs or atop giant lollipops in the boiling desert.

  • Leo

    I thought it was super exciting for the desert, but in the middle of such a horrible city… Great job from BIG, hope to see it built somewere interesting!

    • john

      BIG could do better for such a great city and unique place.

      • Christian

        Any suggestions on how?

  • Fitty

    “I’ll take you to the candy shop…”

    Looks like a good take on creating a landmark, both iconic and functional. The scheme is so straightforward and so clear from the images, it could really do without those diagrams. Give those arrows a rest.

    • rmsnmz

      “Give those arrows a rest” – that’s a good one!

  • Hayden


  • robert

    What is there to see?

  • enkkidu

    To observe what, for blood’s sake? The aerial depicts a drab, marginal city with a high percentage of racial prejudices towards fellow Mexicans.

    • Mark

      You can see the racial prejudices from the top? I didn’t see that in the brochures.

  • Andi

    Cotton candy!

  • Andi

    Looks like the 1950s are back.

  • Hayden

    Fine, I’ll play nice Dezeen: at least it will create an interesting shadow.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Yea, in Phoenix, let’s do even more without shade, and closer to the sun to boot.

  • your daddy

    That thing is going to be hotter than the devil’s dick in the summer with all those windows. Great idea.

    • Got Jesus?

      And let’s compensate our lack of planning and common sense by installing some insanely energy consuming a/c system. Who cares, peak oil and climate change are fake anyway. Yee-haaa.

  • summer glynn

    I would love to have it here and see such a beautiful structure. Hope I live long enough to see it and visit. Please get going with building it – I’m excited.

  • joe

    After seeing this project I know the world will end tomorrow.

  • Designer_79

    So nobody is getting the reference to the Google Maps “pins”? This is a striking example that architecture indeed can be iconic without taking itself too seriously. Nicely done BIG. Made me chuckle and be awestruck at the striking simplicity of the concept at the same time.

    • paraphernal

      The “pin” reference may actually be a banal water tower, whose architecture in the US is commonly a sphere on top of a pole. It would be hard to speak in and iconic way about such an architecturally wretched city that lacks pedestrian interaction, where people mostly drive from one spot to another and have guns on them.

  • john

    Won’t happen. Nothing to see here anyway.

  • Tommy L.

    So this is what Google Project “X” was.

  • Enjoy it!

  • DMG

    Who in their right mind wants to observe Phoenix?

  • Anon

    Very reminiscent of the Space Needle, which is really only remarkable for its historical significance – more so than its actual views (which can be found in other high-rise buildings).

    This thing won’t rise very high (thanks to downtown Phoenix’s height restrictions) and due to the location you won’t get views of the mountains, either. Unless a smoggy, dusty horizon is your idea of “natural beauty”

  • It does look like a honey stick… :-) interesting!

  • johnnielsen

    Is it shaped like a “honey-dipper” or is it just a rip-off of Danish Jørn Utzon’s proposal for a restaurant overlooking the harbour of Copenhagen? Judge for yourself:

    • Jamie Kay

      Are you serious? I don’t think so.

  • rodger

    Interesting reference, johnneilsen. The round tower in Copenhagen is another historical reference BIG would have been aware of, which makes their project more compelling.

  • mmmhhh

    A tribute to Brasilian architect Eduardo Longo?

    Utopia Pavilion, Sao Paulo Biennale 1980.

  • Maasai

    It looks nice. Unlike all the kids that said “what’s there to see?” I say they are immature kids who have nothing better to do. Build it – I know it would be a fantastic masterpiece.

  • Map quest wants their pin back. I think the Google map indicator would make for more interesting architecture.