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The Making of: Arizona State University, McCord Hall

Located in Tempe, Arizona, the State University’s McCord Hall defines the eastern edge of the business school district. The northeast corner opens with a four-story gateway entrance to the school while the southwest corner offers a plaza for the community.

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The curved walls and oculus define the gateway from Palm Walk. Image courtesy of Tim Griffith.

The landscape of Arizona’s Antelope Canyon serves as an inspiration for McCord Hall. With regionally sourced bricks, the tone and material echo the surrounding context, complemented by concrete, wood, and indigenous flora. The warm, earth tones help McCord Hall integrate with ASU’s existing campus in the state’s arid geography.

The native plants minimize water consumption and a series of raised pools help to manage thermal comfort. The site is designed to capture stormwater from the larger district, cycle it through retention gardens, and direct it to underground storage tanks beneath the existing sports fields adjacent to the building site.

Shutterstock Antelope Canyon
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Antelope Canyon, image courtest of Andrea Izzotti (left). McCord Hall, image courtesy of Tim Griffith.

McCord Hall sits adjacent to Palm Walk, ASU’s major pedestrian walkway. The building and courtyard accommodate campus circulation paths to form a body reminiscent of the smooth and organic curves of a canyon.

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Site plan: greener surrounds the building and is woven through the business school complex.

Exposed concrete on the interior and exterior of the project holds rebar and post-tension cables that are cast into the structure.

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Construction on the curved walkway and the final product. The exposed concrete on both the interior and exterior of the building ensures a long building life. Right image courtesy of Tim Griffith.


Tilted columns open up pedestrian space and appear lightweight in comparison to the mass they support. Deep, vertical slot windows span several floors, and from the interior, splayed surrounds soften the strong Arizona sun.

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Image courtesy of Tim Griffith.


Staggered L-shaped bricks project two inches outward to create a “corduroy” texture. The texture appears organically across the exterior, reinforcing the natural form of McCord Hall.

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Image courtesy of David Ottavio.

Projecting metal fins shield and shadow the deep, vertical windows, and cause shadows to lengthen and shorten with the movement of the sun, expressing Arizona's natural elements as dynamic art forms. Concave and convex curves accentuate the suns movement across the building surface and the oculus reflects both sunlight during the day and LED lighting at night.

Wall Without Fins
Wall With Fins
Design studies tested the wall without (left) and with (right) the fin detail. These fins create shadows that change with the sun's position and help to control glare.

Photo-voltaic panels were installed on the roof, adding to the campus-wide initiative harvesting sunlight to provide electricity to the school, which are currently generating 403 kWh per day.

During construction, KPF implemented strategies to reduce the building’s impact on its surroundings. One strategy included mulching and processing the trees cut down on the site, then using this as fertilizer around campus. One existing eucalyptus tree was given to the ASU School of Art, where pieces were turned into artistic plates.

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View of McCord Hall's courtyard. Image courtesy of Tim Griffith.

McCord Hall at Arizona State University received the highest honor from Brick in Architecture Awards. The building for the W.P. Carey School of Business was named the Best in Class in Higher Education. The project reflects the world-class caliber of the School’s learning, social, and research programs, and sustainability aspirations.

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McCord Hall at night, with the oculus lit with warm tones to complement the brick. Images courtesy of Douglas A Salin.