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Optima Camelview Village

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The Optima Camelview Village project presented the architect/developer, Optima, an opportunity to develop an attractive and unique set of design solutions based on the following questions: How can the city’s urban and natural landscapes be woven together to create an open, pedestrian-friendly development that maximizes open space and views? What are Scottsdale’s contemporary architectural features, elements, materials and vernacular? The result is an innovative architecture that balances regional courtyard traditions with twenty-first century high-density desert urban living.

Camelview Village is Scottsdale’s first and largest mixed-use urban in-fill green development. Seeking a LEED Silver green certification, the project consists of 700 residential units in eleven interconnected vegetated terraced buildings with 24,000 sq. ft. of ground level retail space on a 13 acre site. It’s situated between the dominant Camelback Mountain to the northwest and the pedestrian accessible downtown art and retail district immediately to the south. 

Climate Responsive Design

Courtyards and Shelter from the Desert

Camelview Village’s recessed grand courtyard is connected to the public street and centered on a reflecting pool that offers pedestrian relief from the desert sun. “When you look back at the native communities in Arizona, each house was a combination of interior space and exterior courtyard, where the courtyard offered shelter from the harsh elements of the desert, provided shade in the summer, and created a shield from wind in the winter,” says architect and Optima President David C. Hovey. “I want to provide a form of shelter by using outdoor space – not just covered shelter but shelter as defined space from the desert, the animals, the climate.” Entrances to the parking garage, which is located entirely below grade, and to a portion of the retail space are accessed off the recessed grand courtyard. Ancillary courtyards are located around each of the individual buildings, some public and some private.

Terraces, Outdoor Living and Connected Passageways

In addition to courtyards, Hovey’s awareness of local climate and historic architecture impelled the inclusion of terraces. A terrace had numerous functions in Native American homes such as a semi-private greeting area and extension of living space. Today, terraces are a prized amenity in multifamily buildings. Since each residential unit has its own terrace, the buildings are required to step back thus forming a Mesoamerican-type pyramid with a maximum building height of sixty-five (65) feet to retain the Scottsdale human scale. Pedestrian passageways, covered walkways and arbors punctuate the multi-tiered buildings. The prevalence of horizontal planes is well suited to the Arizona desert. The terracing creates horizontal roof and floor lines that helps provide shade while weaving the buildings into the landscape.

Walls, Glazing and Shading

With glass, steel and concrete as its primary materials, the exterior walls use a combination of opaque, transparent and louvered materials for visual openness to courtyards and terraces. Overhangs and shading devices are placed to minimize direct solar penetration based on orientation to daily sun exposure and seasonal changes.

Vegetated Terraces and Roofs

All residential units feature a vegetated terrace with the environmental benefits of reducing outdoor patio temperatures and cleansing of airborne toxins (dust and smog particulates). Vegetated terraces and roofs also provide the following benefits:

• Storm water management (terraces reduce rain water run-off)

• Oxygenation (conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen)

• Protection of roofs from ultraviolet light (minimize roof membrane disintegration)

• Reduction of noise transmission (plants absorb sound)

• Recycling of plant and soil nutrients (supports healthy vegetation)

• Increased energy efficiency (mass and thermal lag)

A total of 23 acres of multi-level vegetated terraces are provided on the 13 acre site. The “urban heat island” effect, where traditional roofs absorb intense heat, is reduced through the natural properties and benefits provided by vegetated landscapes. The end effect is a tempered micro-climate that is meticulously integrated into a high density, pedestrian oriented urban environment.

Adapted from Optima DCH Development