Central Arizona College, Superstition Mountain Campus College Center

Central Arizona College, Superstition Mountain Campus College Center

Apache Junction, AZ

The First Step Towards a More Holistic Campus

Since 1969 Central Arizona College has been educating the diverse communities of Pinal County, and more recently, Apache junction. The College Center’s aspirations set out to become a building that would foster growth. The college would become a new face to the community and an iconic centerpiece to the campus. A true mixed-use project, uniquely tied to its sense of place along the foothills of the Superstition Mountains. The open and interactive program provides many types of learning spaces to fit a diverse student body. Spaces include student services, science teaching labs, classrooms, library, tutoring center, computer commons, offices, community room, café, and bookstore.

The new ‘heart’ of the campus, the College Center is sited at the center of campus, bridging an existing arroyo that provides a unique link to the microclimate of the desert landscape. A key goal of the College was to present a new face to the community and build an iconic centerpiece to the campus that would create precedence for future growth.

The building layout was organized by creating two centers: the student commons, defined by floor to ceiling glass and a large folded ceiling that spans across open learning spaces; the second by a group of five science teaching labs with a technical focus. The two centers are linked by a bridge occupied by offices and lounge areas that provides an academic link between functions. Open lounges and learning spaces, combined with a café, open computer lab, and exterior patio space encourages collaborative and flexible learning. Tutoring and library services are easily accessible off common areas offering extended learning opportunities and casual interaction.

Building materials were chosen for their tie to local contextual references, durability, and sustainability. Forms and surfaces of the building recall rugged mountain bluffs and folded foothills of the Superstition Mountains. Exterior surfaces include integral color concrete with a hand screed finish, copper panels with natural patina, low-E insulated glass, exposed structural steel, and acoustic cedar ceiling panels. Natural finishes and structural longevity are inherent in all materials providing long life span with little to no maintenance. The material palette creates inspiration for future development of the campus.

Project facts

Design Architect: Richärd Kennedy Architects

Architect of Record: Richärd Kennedy Architects

Client: Central Arizona College

Size: 74,000 SF

Project Type: Higher Education, Renovation, Science/Technology

Services: Architecture, Master Planning, Programming, Laboratory Planning, Laboratory Design, Library Design, Interior Design

Delivery Method: CMAR

General Contractor: Adolfson & Peterson Construction

MEP Engineer: Energy System Design

Structural Engineer: Caruso Turley Scott

Landscape Design Architect: Green Studio

Photographer: Bill Timmerman | Mark Boisclair

Press & Awards

2014 – AIA Arizona, Merit Award

2013 – AIA Western Mountain Region, Citation Award

2013 – SCUP, Merit Award

2013 – Valley Forward Environmental Excellence, Merit Award

2013 – TCA, Tilt-Up Achievement Award, Education Division

2013 – IIDA Southwest Chapter PRIDE Award


The concept of the College Center is driven by the surrounding landscape of the Superstition mountains. Jutting mountain forms that contrast the skyline, while integrally colored concrete recall the textures of the mountain bluffs. 

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