Sonoran Suite by Cliff Garten at Scottsdale Sports Complex offers visitors of the public park in north Scottsdale, a heightened awareness of the beauty, power, and majesty of the natural environment around them. The project uniquely employs sculpture as an aesthetic lens focused on the area’s scenic mountain vistas. The centerpiece of the installation is a 10-foot high viewing platform rising from the northwest corner of the 70-acre Scottsdale Sports Complex, which serves as both a community park and a tournament-level soccer complex. The structure is integrated into its natural surroundings by the rounded contours of the platform, the mound which serves as its base, the red granite aggregate used in its construction, and the surrounding desert landscaping.
A simple curved walkway up the mound leads visitors to the top of the 20-foot diameter platform. There a single palo verde tree, encircled by a bench, and four sculpted viewing portals form an open-air observation room. As the tree grows, its canopy will expand out to form the ceiling of the room, with the sculptures and railing defining its outer perimeters. Visitors become active participants in the piece as they peer through the eight-foot tall bronze viewing portals at four adjacent landmark mountains: Pinnacle Peak, Thompson Peak, Camelback Mountain, and Piestewa Peak. The framed landscapes form the points of a compass. Bronze inlays on the surface of the viewing platform show the outlined profiles of the peaks, guiding the viewer’s eye toward the portals and the mountains depicted.
According to Garten, “The elastic quality of seeing and imagining our position in the landscape is part of being able to understand why a place feels the way it does.” Rather than using the city as a context and the automobile as a means for conditioning our response to the natural environment, Sonoran Suite urges viewers to discover and nurture a focused, personal relationship with the landscape.
The panoramic snap-shots framed by Sonoran Suite invite park users and visitors to pause and contemplate the scenic desert vistas too often taken for granted in the course of our busy daily lives. Moreover, as light and colors change with the time of day, seasons, and weather; Sonoran Suite encourages an ongoing dialogue between the viewer and the desert.