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Multivalent Infrastructure

Aaron Cleveland

Arizona State University


Aaron Cleveland


Max Underwood, AIA (Professor), Diego Garcia-Setien (Professor), Philip Horton


Max Underwood, AIA (Professor), Diego Garcia-Setien (Professor), Philip Horton



The project’s primary intention was to address the underutilized potential of the urban water distribution within metropolitan Phoenix. Currently, the entire Salt River Valley (metro Phoenix) gets the majority of its water from the diverted Salt River. The water moves through the city in open-air canals which are a neglected network of single-use infrastructure. This infrastructure has the latent potential of addressing the city’s most pressing needs: public space, energy production, and ecology, while simultaneously reducing urban sprawl. While the city has historically “turned its back” on the canals, treating them more like alleyways. The projects seeks to transform the perception of these canals by creating a multivalent system of infrastructure and public amenity. This would then refocus development on the canals and create an economic incentive to densify the city.


Spawning from the concept of the “Phoenix Challenge,” an initiative to understand and address the issues facing Phoenix, the studio was organized around identifying how the city uses, stores, and distributes water. From this research, the studio was properly equipped to identify opportunities in addressing these critical issues. Each student identified and pursued a different opportunity in order for the studio to provide a more comprehensive look at the city’s issues and potentials. From these findings, Phoenix can become a model for other arid cities dealing with these obstacles. This studio allowed students to find and address issues in an independent thesis approach while remaining under the umbrella of the “Phoenix Challenge.”


In order to transform this infrastructural water distribution of metropolitan Phoenix, it was essential to identify and categorize all the canal types, sections, and variety of context. Through this exercise it was discovered that the Arizona Canal--the synthesis of these types and context--would be the perfect prototype for illustrating how this transformation could affect the canals on a system-wide basis. The tactical interventions would relate the intersections of infrastructure and unique context in order to develop flexible programs that share a connection to their location. These sites incorporate a variety of programs in order to strengthen their use, evolution, and relationship with context. The interventions would then have the potential to evolve with their site while maintaining the flexibility to be deployed in a variety of locations. Within the Arizona Canal, three specific prototypes were pushed further (desert/rural, suburban, and urban) as a framework for the relationship that population density has on the canals/interventions. While each site is uniquely rural or urban, the “kit of parts” is essentially the same. The program and implementation of these parts alters based on the priorities of the community. Conceptually, each intervention will concurrently become a place of recreation, energy production, education, and cohabitation between humans and nature. Education is a critical component in helping address challenges facing water use in the Sonoran Desert. Integrated into each system is water education as it relates to the context (agricultural, urban, and recreational water use), hoping to inspire more responsible water use in metropolitan Phoenix

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