Michael Goodwin, the architect who changed the face of downtown Tempe by designing the upside-down pyramid that is City Hall, has died. He was 72.
Goodwin was an early leader of the downtown’s redevelopment 40 years ago but also went on to design schools, become a developer and then an artist. City Hall is Goodwin’s most famous work, envisioned as structure that would shade itself in the summer but let sunlight heat it in the winter.
Goodwin came up with the idea while in the shower, daughter Lisa Michael said. He was ahead of his time with environmentally-friendly designs – and the City Hall building was one of many that was met with some skepticism.
“I remember growing up in town and having people go, ‘Oh that weird building,’ ” his daughter said. “It was the weirdest building anybody had ever seen. I was teased about that building for years, in a good way.”
The building won many awards after opening in 1971. It served as an important symbol at a time when downtown struggled so much that Tempe leaders considered building a new City Hall on the edge of town. Some feared that would signal the city had given up on its own downtown, and the City Council decided by just one vote to build the pyramid in its historic core.
The commitment to downtown triggered redevelopment efforts that continue today.
Goodwin also designed the Mill Avenue Shops in 1978, the first private redevelopment downtown. He advocated for the red brick sidewalks that are a big part of the district’s character.
Goodwin later designed Corona del Sol and Marcos de Niza high schools, among other campuses. He became a developer and had a knack for buying undesirable buildings with hidden beauty and transforming them, Michael said.
Goodwin became the youngest architect to become fellow at the American Institute of Architects, in 1978.
“He leaves a giant legacy,” his son Matthew Goodwin said. “He changed the face of architecture in Arizona. He certainly changed the look of downtown Tempe.”
Goodwin was the son of Kemper Goodwin, a Tempe mayor and architect. The two designed many projects together and Michael was always looking for ways to reduce energy use with unconventional designs like the City Hall building.
“It was a very environmental concept, and this was a thread that went through all of his design and all of his political life,” Matthew Goodwin said.
Goodwin served in the Arizona House of Representatives in the early 1970s.
He was an advocate for education and was involved with the Detour Company Theatre, which served adults with special needs. Goodwin eventually moved near Camelback Mountain in Phoenix and focused on sculpture and painting.
Goodwin died May 4, shortly after being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. Services were held Tuesday. Family members said they’ll remember Goodwin’s creativity in all facets of his life.
“He always had a twinkle in his eye. He was a great storyteller,” sister Kathleen Bales said. “When we went on trips, he’d hold the guidebook and tell us stories. We never knew if it was true or something he made up.”
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