European architect Lev Libeskind to set up first US office in Phoenix

A world-renowned architectural firm based in Milan, Italy has selected Phoenix for its first U.S. office.

Lev Libeskind, lead designer and creative director of Libeskind Studio Design, said he originally thought his first U.S. expansion would be in Los Angeles.

He even considered Dallas and Austin, Texas, until finally choosing Phoenix.

“It’s such an exciting city right now,” Libeskind said. “It’s booming. It’s the No. 1 city for construction in the country.”

Libeskind’s new 1,500-square-foot office space takes the entire top floor of 829 First Ave., a two-story historic building at First Avenue and Roosevelt Street.

The office also is within walking distance of its first Phoenix project, a 36-unit boutique apartment called Rainbow Road at the southwest corner of First and Portland streets in the Roosevelt Row District.

Rainbow Road

A rendering of the 36-unit Rainbow Road boutique apartments to be built at the southwest corner of First and Portland streets in the Roosevelt Row District of downtown Phoenix.

InveStellar Corp

Libeskind is still tweaking the design on that project, adding an extra floor for a total of five floors.

Originally, the plan was to use the rooftop deck as a community amenity on First Fridays on Roosevelt Row.

Now the entire ground floor of that structure will be retail experiential space that will invite the community to the space on a daily basis, featuring local artists.

The team is submitting new civil plans to the city and expect to begin construction in November.

Libeskind has other projects in the works

Rainbow Road isn’t the only reason for selecting an office building in downtown Phoenix, Libeskind said.

“We have two very significant projects in the neighborhood,” he said.

While he wasn’t at liberty to reveal much about those two projects, Libeskind said one will be a mixed-use hospitality project and the other is residential.

Zac Cohen, a partner at Lebeskind, is putting the finishing touches on the new office and is expecting the entire staff to move in this week. Plans call for hiring another 10 architects as the company secures more contracts, said Cohen, who also serves as managing director of InveStellar Corp., developer of Rainbow Road.

“It’s an incredible space,” said Cohen. “We have 14-foot ceilings.”

Because it’s a historic building, there isn’t much they can do to alter its structure, he said. Instead, local artists are adding a local flavor to the space, including a mural painting.

Libeskind will still reside in Europe

Cohen, who lives here, is managing the new Phoenix office, while Libeskind will continue to live in Europe.

Phoenix has grown up as a city, said Cohen.

“People are hungry for architecture,” he said. “In Rome, London or New York, you get a sense of being. It lifts your spirits. It gives you a feeling of being a part of something greater than just who you are.”

“My earliest memory is as an infant sitting on my father’s lap as he drew in the early 1980s,” Libeskind said.

After earning a master’s in architecture from the University of Cambridge, UK, and an MBA from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, Libeskind worked side by side with his father, who has an office in New York.

His father taught him that architectural design should speak to a sense of place.

“Architects are storytellers,” he said.

When tourists visit a city, they snap photos of the most famous buildings of that city, Libeskind said.

“We want to be part of giving Phoenix more of an architectural identity,” he said.


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