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  • Arizona Contractor & Community

Flame-Inspired Precast Concrete Panels Attract 180 Degrees Design + Build

Douglas Towne

Having an affinity for Phoenix’s impressive mid-century architecture comes easily for many in the construction industry. Performing the actual dirty work of preserving this unique heritage, however, requires a tad more passion, especially when the task requires moving 325,000 pounds of delicate precast concrete.

Fortunately, one firm stepped up who had both the enthusiasm for architectural panels and a skilled crew capable of salvaging them: 180 Degrees Design + Build. James Trahan AIA, principal and partner, states, “Our work not only kept some of Phoenix’s irreplaceable mid-century architectural heritage out of a landfill but provides our company the opportunity to reuse them in new projects around the Valley.” How Trahan acquired these panels is an intriguing architectural tale that starts during the Great Depression.

The story begins with the late architect Fred Guirey, who moved to Arizona after graduating with an architecture degree from the University of California-Berkeley in 1933. His parents had already relocated to Tucson for health reasons, and he had frequently visited the state for jobs, including helping engineer the road from Jacob Lake to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in 1930, according to

For nine years, Guirey worked as a landscape architect with the Arizona Highway Department, eventually becoming a director and acquiring the nickname, "The Father of Our Roadside Rest Areas." He and his wife, Catherine “Tat” Bolen, were active in the community and threw elaborate parties at their home at 300 East Missouri Avenue. Guirey started his own firm in partnership with Stan Quist in 1946. By 1961, after going through several more iterations, the firm was known as Guirey, Srnka & Arnold. According to Wikipedia, the architectural group’s office was at 506 East Camelback Road, which Guirey had designed in 1952.

Guirey and his associates had designed homes, schools, and other buildings when they received the commission in 1961 to be the architect for the Arizona Public Service administrative building in Deer Valley at 2124 West Cheryl Drive. Frank Foltz & Associates were the project’s structural engineers, while Johannessen & Girand were the consulting engineers.

The most noteworthy feature of the building was the precast concrete panels attached to the exterior and used to shade the entire glass façade, including an entry walkway. The panels feature flame and lightning motifs, appropriate for a power company. “They’re amazing designs and drawings, to say the least,” Trahan says.

To read the rest of this article, you are invited to purchase the digital issue here.

This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, Jan/Feb 2022 issue, Vol. 11, No. 1.


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