Shadow Play

Architect: Howeler + Yoon Architecture, LLP

Owner: City of Phoenix

Location: Phoenix, Arizona

Category: Up to $1.5 million in construction cost (category two)

Positioned on a former traffic median, Shadow Play transforms this space by increasing pedestrian connectivity with the surrounding commercial and arts district by providing space for pedestrians to walk and relax.

By transforming a traffic median into a public space, Shadow Play fosters pedestrian life and improves the downtown Phoenix streetscape at Roosevelt Row. Clusters of shade structures create respite from the desert sun by offering a public parasol at an urban scale. Shadow Play's hovering canopy is formed from an aggregation of identical geometric modules.

Each module is fabricated from a steel plate to create a thin but structurally rigid cell. The aggregation of individual cells form clusters that span between vertical supports to create an angular canopy of open cells. The folded steel cells filter the intense sunlight, casting shadows on the ground and creating local micro-climate in the shade. The geometry of the canopy maximizes the production of shade and shadow while allowing for breezes and air movement.

"Wonderfully playful and functional addition to the streetscape." ~ Jury comment

Photovoltaic panels are mounted to the top surface of the canopy, taking advantage of the optimally oriented geometry of the steel cells. Power generated by the photovoltaic panels is stored in batteries, allowing the canopy to be illuminated from within in the evening time.

As an urban platform to reclaim under-used public space, Shadow Play foregrounds its environment to create a site specific collective place within downtown Phoenix.

Additional information

Consultant - solar: Travis Gentz, David Gibbs.  

Engineer - structural: James Lane, Knippers Helbig, Hauke Jungjohann

Contractor - sitework: Chuck Watson, Chris Rocha.  

Fabricator - steel: Kyle Peyton, Kevin Stout, Greg Brockman, Shane Altmeyer, Tom Couturier, Ray Van Drie

Landscape architect: Janet Waibel  

Materials: Bill McGee, Mike Woessner, Ute Wallner, Manny Meyer.


Carolyn Adams, AIA (Chair), Carolyn Adams Architecture PLLC, Kirkland, Washington

Michael Antenora, AIA, Antenora Architects LLP, Austin, Texas  

Steve Kordalski, AIA, Kordalski Architects Inc., Cleveland, Ohio

Brandon Frazier Pace, AIA, Sanders Pace Architecture LLC, Knoxville, Tennessee

Elizabeth Whittaker, AIA, Merge Architects, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts

Image credits


Matt Winquist


Matt Winquist


Matt Winquist


Matt Winquist


Matt Winquist


Matt Winquist


Matt Winquist