Beus Center for Law and Society at Arizona State University

Arizona State University reinvents the experience of traditional law school with the opening Beus Center for Law and Society (BCLS), a modern facility in the heart of downtown Phoenix designed to support a new paradigm of legal education at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

The relocation of the law school to ASU’s downtown campus establishes beneficial adjacencies to the Phoenix legal community and unique opportunities to advance the College’s pedagogical mission, educating students and citizens on the importance of the law in shaping our civil society. Designed by Tomas Rossant / Ennead Architects in collaboration with Jones Studio, the six-story, 280,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility re-imagines the traditional law school as a public building, providing services like a public interest law clinic and the nation’s first not-for-profit teaching law firm.

The design was conceived with openness to the public in mind, as a unique urban environment where society and the study and practice of law converge. A north-south “slice” through the building’s social center invites the City of Phoenix into the heart of the institution, exposing the public to its three grand double-height spaces: the Great Hall, the law library and the plaza courtyard.   The library is unconventionally configured without borders or thresholds: stacks and study spaces extend to the upper levels along all circulation paths, promoting informal interchange between students, faculty and visitors. Open-air walkways bridge east and west portions of the building, providing access to a suspended double-height reading room at the north and two stories of “think tank” spaces at the south.

The expansive bi-folding glass door at the front of the Great Hall unifies the indoor and outdoor space and presents the hall as the public’s “legal living room.” An innovative retractable tiered seating system allows it to be converted from a socially dynamic arrangement to a more formal auditorium configuration, providing a flexible, unique civic space to the downtown community.

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Ennead Architects has teamed with Unified Field Inc., a pioneer in the field of interactive media, to create the new BCLS app, a groundbreaking tool developed specifically for the building, part of a digital communication, dynamic messaging platform that creates a digital campus within the physical campus. Cutting-edge technology enables faculty and students, as well as members of the local legal and general public, to interact with each other and with the building itself, and curate their own BCLS experience in real time. Establishing a new type of community, people can now connect and communicate in a way previously unknown in a university setting.

Sustainability was a key driver throughout the design process.  Beyond the naturally self-shading massing of the overall building, the saw-toothed configuration of the outer building façade, comprised of Arizona sandstone with aluminum and glass windows, has been designed to achieve a higher than standard level of thermal performance, responding to solar orientation, window size and programmatic requirements. Mechanically, the building incorporates energy-efficient technologies, including chilled beams and under-floor displacement cooling. BCLS is expected to reduce energy consumption by 37% compared to a baseline building, per ASHRAE 90.1-2007, and is calculated to have the 4th lowest EUI (Energy Use Intensity) of any of the 57 buildings analyzed at ASU.

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