Learn About This Architect’s Take On The Changing AZ Design Scene


Headshot of Arizona-based architect Oscar Lopez

Headshot of Arizona-based architect Oscar Lopez.

Boutique with light wood ceilings and wood shelves displaying jewelry, clothes and other accessories.

Interior of Local Nomad boutique.

Entrance to dialog shop, featuring black-and-white design scheme.

Entrance to the Phoenix shop Dialog.

If you’ve dropped in at Local Nomad in midtown Phoenix or Anello pizzeria in Tucson, then you’ve brushed up against the work of Oscar Lopez, who worked on both projects with Space Bureau. A senior lecturer at the University of Arizona, mentee of Rick Joy and award-winning residential designer in his own right, Lopez manages to bring as much poetry as professional rigor to his work. He is one of those people who has a hand in a range of activities—a new architectural studio, an upcoming book and, of course, a multitude of projects—all while focusing on the concepts that most fascinate him: materials, details and public space. Here, Lopez reflects on what makes good design so enticing.

Describe your approach to architecture. We pride ourselves on being able to evolve in the way that we view the world so we can improve our understanding of different materials, think about how space is used and better respond to those who use the places and objects we design.

Residential projects often take their cues from the site. How do commercial projects engage with their surrounds? Commercial projects receive the urban landscape and the social component of the city. Take Dialog home goods store in central Phoenix that I worked on with Wendell Burnette Architects, for example. We very intentionally considered the porosity of the project, making sure the design and placement of the floating counter wouldn’t obstruct the view to the exterior while still serving as a threshold for those outside looking in.

How have commercial architecture and design changed in Arizona over the past decade? We live in a very fast-paced world in terms of design and construction, which can negatively affect the quality of the spaces being built. Design trends can feel superficial and inauthentic, but architecture can be practiced in a sincere and genuine way that can lead to thoughtful and authentic spaces. Kid Sister wine bar is a great example where we thoughtfully worked through the design process and borrowed from moments and experiences found in Portugal; Granada, Spain; and New York. We study what makes those places resonate so what we arrive at is both new and familiar.