Darren Petrucci’s designs find strength in numbers. Petrucci is the director of Arizona State University’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, and founder of Architecture-Infrastructure-Research (A-I-R). And with the trademarked name Amenity Infrastructure, the architect hopes to capitalize on his designs’ potential to be multiplied throughout public spaces and communities.
For example, at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Petrucci’s Comfort Zone project is a series of shading and cooling canopies for airport vehicles. His Stripscape design includes a collection of evaporative-cooling units that are also seats, transforming a scorching bookstore courtyard into usable space. Nearby, shades-cum-signs (“lampshades”) let merchants comply with Phoenix zoning regulations that forbid most advertising signage. “Each system is addressing a different constituency,” he said, and they can be multiplied in a way to translate the human scale of the body into something with much larger impact.
Because he hopes his designs will be duplicated, much of Petrucci’s work deals with prefabrication techniques. In 2008, he completed a prototype for a low-cost, low-environmental-impact guesthouse on Martha’s Vineyard with structural insulated panels (SIPs). Composed of a rigid foam plastic core sandwiched between two structural skins, SIPs are strong, cost- effective, and energy-efficient. “The house uses existing technology, but it’s smart in the way it’s deployed,” he said. Like his Phoenix lampshades, the design of the so-called “VH R-10 gHouse” was determined in part by local zoning: The home couldn’t exceed 600 square feet. But the ultimate goal was a solution to a community problem—lack of affordable housing—especially for the high-priced resort’s seasonal service sector. Petrucci hopes that in the future, the gHouse will provide affordable housing within walking distance of Vineyard hotels, restaurants, and other businesses.
Petrucci emphasizes that a transdisciplinary approach is key to working with communities to develop better infrastructure. With a team that includes a psychologist, graphic designers, construction workers, and architecture students, he is currently working on designs for a wellness clinic suitable for remote, arid parts of the world. “I feel very fortunate to be able to practice and to teach and do research,” he said. “I think that really helps me to try to position what I’m doing as having some significance, even though many things I do are not large projects.”