Mesa Arts Center

Mesa, Arizona

Designing a natural promenade to connect plazas and open spaces

Located in a Phoenix suburb, Mesa Arts Center is the largest performance complex in Arizona, comprised of four theaters, five art galleries and 14 art studios. This 9-acre campus is a design showpiece for visual and performing arts -both indoors and out -and a destination to Phoenix’s metropolitan population of 4.7 million. The catalytic anchor of Mesa’s downtown, the ensemble of theaters, studio’s and outdoor spaces provides an artful setting for community engagement, learning, and expression. With nearly 500,000 visitors every year, it has revitalized the city center and stimulated new private investment in downtown. Simply stated, art has help revitalize Mesa’s downtown.

Design Workshop, the landscape architect of record, worked in collaboration with BORA Architects and Martha Schwartz Partners to help conceive a creative public realm for the campus. The design includes the facility’s main organizing feature, the 704-foot-long “Shadow Walk.” This landscaped spine is the main circulation element from which individual theaters, rehearsal spaces, art studios, classrooms, sunken gardens, informal performance spaces and seating areas are organized. Inspired by the beauty of the desert, its colors, textures, materials and striking sunlight, Shadow Walk is a sheltered promenade that allows visitors to escape from the harsh desert heat of summer and provides pockets of comfortable spaces for people to gather, learn and perform outdoors all year round. Acting as a thread that weaves its way across the entire city block, the Shadow Walk serves as the city’s prime gathering space, where art and community converge. Mesa Arts Center is a prime example of how art, place, and community can lead to reinvestment and elevate the art of revitalization of a downtown.

Services Provided: Landscape Architecture, Construction Administration & Observation, Zoning & Government


  • Award of Excellence, Urban Land Institute
  • National Honor Award in General Design, American Society of Landscape Architecture


Mesa Arts Center


DWL Architects & Planners, Bora Architects, Martha Schwartz Partners