Inverted pyramid building in Tempe shades itself

Unlike most office buildings in Arizona’s Valley of the Sun that tend to get super hot from intense sunlight beating on them, the Tempe Municipal Building shown here is continuously protected from the sun’s rays by its own shadow. Keeping direct sunlight from striking the glass allows substantially less heat into the building.

Tempe municipal building - an inverted pyramid
Tempe’s municipal building is a unique architectural statement. Modern in style, it is as timeless as the Egyptian and Aztec pyramids it parodies.

The building is constructed of a sturdy steel frame which supports thick panes of tempered glass. Engineered to be flexible, the glass can withstand heat, cold and the forces of gravity.


Two major components:

  1. three-story glass and steel inverted pyramid with a concrete stair tower
  2. landscaped below-ground courtyard surrounded by city offices

A concrete plaza of exposed aggregate extends out from the pyramid. The decking doubles as a roof for the earth-integrated offices below.

Garden (lower) level of Tempe's inverted pyramid building
Several Tempe City offices are located in the garden (lower) level which is mostly shaded by the inverted pyramid building.


Tempe Municipal Building tidbits:

  • Designed by the architectural firm of Michael & Kemper Goodwin; construction completed 1971
  • Sits at a 45-degree angle to the bordering streets, to gain maximum sun in the winter and minimum heat in the summer
  • Base of the pyramid measures 45 feet on each of its four sides
  • Walls extend at 45-degree angles up to the roof which measures 120 feet on each side

Recognition received:

  • 1971 – Award of excellence from the American Institute of Steel Construction
  • 1972 – Award of merit from the Western Mountain Region of the American Institute of Architects
  • 2010 – 25 Year Award from the Arizona Society of the American Institute of Architects

Want to see it for yourself? Tap the map:

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.