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Tuacahn Special Exhibit and Founder's Room Copy

Awards Category

Unbuilt Architecture

Project Summary

Tuacahn Center for the Arts is located in Ivins, UT, approximately 10 miles northwest of St. George, UT. The campus is situated in Padre Canyon, among 1500’ red sandstone cliffs. The center has a 2000 seat outdoor amphitheater where professional plays and concerts are performed each year and is a cultural hub for the Southern Utah and Southern Nevada communities. The client, Tuacahn Center for the Arts, asked for a project that celebrates the past, present and future of the performing arts campus. They asked that the project contain three elements, 1) a viewing deck overlooking the ruins of the original founder’s cabin, Orval Hafen (past), 2) a multifunctional room for small performances and presentations for up to 100 people (present), and 3) an exhibit room that contains artifacts from the original founder and views over the entire campus and valley (future). The project is currently in the fundraising phase and is expected to start construction in late 2024.

Project Narrative

With the direction by the client, the design team believes the Founder’s Room at Tuacahn has the potential to become a beacon to the campus, serving as a place of inspiration and reflection for visitors and performers alike. Designed with Heidegger’s postulation of “place” in mind, the project is more than just a physical location, but a space that has meaning and significance. Drawing on Heidegger’s concept of “Dasein,” or being-in-the-world, the Founder’s Room can become a space that connects individuals to the broader community and landscape of Tuacahn. The design of the project should reflect this interconnectedness, incorporating natural elements and textures that blend seamlessly with the surrounding environment. Furthermore, the Founder’s Room design reflects Tuacahn’s rich history and legacy, incorporating artifacts and images that pay homage to the founders and the performers who have graced the stage over the years. This serves as a reminder of the cultural significance of Tuacahn and the role it plays in the Southwest region. The room can also serve as a space for contemplation and reflection, encouraging visitors to connect with their own thoughts and emotions. Heidegger believed that space should be a place for “authentic being,” a space where individuals can be true to themselves and their experiences. The Founder’s Room can embody this concept by creating a calming and meditative environment, free from distractions and noise. The design focused on the three timeframes the client gave the design team – Past: The simple viewing deck overlooks the weathered ruins of Orval Hafen’s cabin built on the site decades ago. All that remains is a simple wood deck and remnants of a fallen sandstone fireplace. The viewing deck is made of recycled weathered wood similar to what is remaining of the original cabin. Present: A simple concrete structure, the multipurpose space is anchored into the site becoming one with the landscape and allows for many types of events to take place and has a view to the exterior water feature that is located at the original location of the water well used by Orval. Future: A floating 20’x20’x20’ cube clade in recycled weathered wood, houses artifacts such as diaries, hand drawings, etc. donated by Mr. Hafen’s family. The cube, being elevated above the valley floor, has 360 degree views to the main Tuacahn campus, Padre Canyon and Mt. Trumbell, 80 miles to the south at the edge of the Grand Canyon. Supporting the floating cube is an “exploded” sandstone fireplace. This pays homage to the fallen sandstone fireplace on the original cabin and is located at the exact location of the original water well Orval and his family used for drinking water. The design, working with the stage set designers at Tuacahn, has created a concept that is not only contextual to the landscape and campus but truly represents the rich history and future of the Tuacahn Center for the Arts.

Sustainable Design & Materials

Sustainability and building performance are always crucial considerations in design. Given the rich site context and history, our aim was to integrate these factors as much as possible. The site currently harbors debris from a fallen chimney and a decaying shed. Repurposing the wood and brick from these piles emphasizes resource efficiency and waste reduction. This approach not only minimizes the need for new materials but also adds a touch of history to the building. In addition to repurposed materials, the building is being integrated with an existing well on the site for water usage. The connection between the well and the building underscores a rational blend of modern sustainability and traditional resources, ensuring a logical and efficient use of water resources. The design also incorporates earth berming, often viewed controversially due to earth displacement. However, we will be relocating and repurposing the displaced earth. This approach allows us to harness the benefits of earth berming while serving a dual purpose by addressing landscaping needs in another location. In this building, sustainability is not a conceptual ideal but a result of purposeful choices, maximizing efficiency and minimizing environmental impact.

Project Stats

Square Feet


Green Building Designation(s)

Date of Completion

Project Location

1100 Tuacahn Dr, Shivwits, UT 84738, USA

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