/ Modified may 13, 2013 4:40 p.m.

Buildings That Changed Tucson, 1783 to 2002

Tucson architect explains why four buildings encapsulate area's history

The history of Tucson dates back well before the area had its name, and some of its history is reflected in architecture.

“I don't think buildings so much as change their society as they reflect their society. I think we might discuss buildings that express the culture that produced them,” said Tucson architect Bob Vint.

He chose four buildings that illustrate the Tucson-area history:

Mission San Xavier del Bac - 1783 This was the area's first European building, Vint said, and marks the beginning of Spanish and Catholic immigrants, although it was built by Native Americans and contains Islamic architectural elements. “Tucson's first work of public art,” said Vint, who is the lead architect for the mission's restoration.

St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church & Plaza -1936 Vint described the building as, “religion in service to real estate” because the church is designed as a sort of city center for the residential areas surrounding the property. Architect Josias Joesler designed the church at the request of developer John Murphey. It includes a Mexican-style plaza and attracted people away from the city center.

Murphy-Wilmot Public Library - 1965 This is an example of Tucson's array of mid-century modern designs, Vint said. Nicholas Sakellar designed the building as the city was expanding eastward. Pima County expanded the building in 2010, but Vint said it still represents “middle class surburbia.”

Integrated Learning Center, University of Arizona 2002 James Gresham designed this underground building in the center of the main university campus. The structure includes sky lights in the ceilings and a central courtyard with architectural features that reference the San Xavier Mission, Spanish architecture and St. Philip's church courtyard, Vint said. The classroom and computer lab space is climate controlled by being underground.

“Tucson's history is expressed in these four buildings,” Vint said.

Watch “10 Buildings That Changed America,” Tuesday, 8 p.m. MST, PBS 6.

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