More Good News for Garrett Eckbo's Modernist Plaza in Tucson


Tulsa Convention Center Plaza

Tucson Convention Center plaza, designed by Garrett Eckbo, photo by photovitamina

On September 8, 2015, the Tucson Community Center Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, an acknowledgement of the national significance of the exceptional Modernist design by landscape architect Garrett Eckbo. This achievement is one result of a collaborative effort by the City of Tucson, the Tucson business community, the University of Arizona, Pima Community College, the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, and TCC Today, the citizen advocacy group whose mission is to support, renew, and maintain the Tucson Community Center, which includes the Eckbo-designed plaza.

Eckbo’s commission, which opened in three stages between 1971 and 1974, was inspired by a desert oasis in the Santa Catalina Mountains outside the city. He created a terraced landscape with undulating watercourses enlivened by rock formations and waterfalls and linked by grid-like groves of trees. During difficult economic times, the City struggled to maintain and manage the plaza, and its cultural and historical significance was not well understood. TCLF first listed the Tucson Community (Convention) Center as an “at-risk” landscape in August 2010, when significant modifications to the plaza were under consideration. A conservation master plan commissioned by the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation led to the tabling of these ideas in favor of working towards conservation. In 2014, TCC Today, together with a coalition of city and business leaders and many talented and generous individuals, installed a demonstration area to help illustrate for the public what a rehabilitated landscape could offer.

Tucson Convention Center

Tucson Convention Center plaza, designed by Garrett Eckbo. Photo by Emily Yetman

During spring 2015, the City contracted with the Drachman Institute of the University of Arizona to document, assess, and interpret the Eckbo-designed landscape that would later comprise the historic district. As part of this project, 3-D laser technology was used to scan the landscape, and a class in computer-assisted design at nearby Pima Community College, along with the student Revit Club, used the results to build a 3-D model of it. Working in tandem, a second class at the University outlined preservation-planning issues, identified stakeholders, and prepared a plan to provide guidance to the City in matters of public engagement, programming, and stewardship. Meanwhile, TCC Today worked with public, private, and philanthropic entities to fund a second demonstration project to be completed in time for the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation’s Modernism Week, October 2-11, 2015.

The rehabilitation of the Tucson Community Center (TCC) Historic District is now one of twenty-four City of Tucson projects on a November 2015 Pima County bond election ballot. Other projects that benefit the city, including roadway and park improvements, also appear on this election ballot, but the TCC Historic District project was ultimately ranked as the second highest priority by the City’s bond committee.

To show your support for the rehabilitation of this unique public resource and to learn how you can help, visit