Commercial Design Trends Regional Approach to Materials and Context

Erik Peterson (1) (1)

Written by Erik Peterson


Commercial design over the years has adapted to trends in the industry, be that good or bad. I believe we’re seeing a very positive trend in commercial design in our Arizona market at this time. There are three major components to the trend: 1) regional context 2) lifestyle integration 3) experiential story.

Regional Context

The first trend involves the exploration of using local materials and reacts to specific site constraints when dealing with its design. For example, using stone, copper and rammed earth from the site to create a design that looks like it belongs in Arizona, verses anywhere in the USA. The building may also relate to solar orientation, shade and shadow as well as views to and from the site. Repurposing buildings and infill sites are also becoming a popular trend. Just try finding a great, old brick building in Phoenix metro these days – they’re typically gobbled up the minute they hit the market for the next hot restaurant or internet company office space.

Lifestyle Integration

The second trend involves integrating our lifestyle into the design. People are riding bikes to work, showering there, working longer hours with more breaks; more open floor plans requiring personal pods for private conversations, cafeterias that allow people to eat together and generally a more casual atmosphere is trending now. In the past, commercial design was more generic – the users adjusted to the building. I believe the current demand comes with an expectation that buildings have more character to match how we work and live; thus creating better environments to accommodate healthier lifestyles.

Experiential Story

The third trend taps into the aspect of social media and its role in commercial design. Most of us have seen photos of the glass Apple store in New York, or the latest Starbucks design in Portland via social media. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, we’re all looking for that experiential story to post for the world to see. Commercial design is reacting to this trend by creating cool and interesting environments that encourage “tweetable” experiences. The goal is to cause someone to be so moved by a space or detail that they’ll photograph and share it. Social posts of a building could go as far as helping with brand recognition and advertisement for a business.

Currently, we’re incorporating these commercial design concepts into exciting new projects across the Valley. From indoor amusement parks such as the Fun Center of America at Talking Stick Park, scheduled to open early 2016, to restaurants like Two Brothers Brewery in Old Town Scottsdale and resorts such as the Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park.

In conclusion, these trends are a sight for sore eyes in the commercial market. For so long we have been accustomed to plain box architecture available for any use in any town – we can now look forward to seeing creativity tailored to our region and designs that are built for specialized uses.

Erik Peterson is a licensed Architect in the states of Arizona, Idaho, Hawaii, Texas, and California. Erik is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registrations Board (NCARB) and managed many diverse and award winning projects throughout the Western United States. Erik can be reached at 480-477-1111 or visit