Marlene Imirzian was a Girl Scout who grew up to bring the organization's vision to life as the head architect on a leadership center for girls and women.
Imirzian, founder of Marlene Imirzian & Associates, says she is pleased with the result of her collaboration with the Girl Scouts – an $18 million year-round urban program center called the Bob & Renee Parsons Leadership Center for Girls & Women. With the new center in the South Mountain community at 1611 E. Dobbins Road in Phoenix, the Girl Scouts-Arizona Cactus-Pine Council (GSACPC) will serve the surrounding population year-round.
Imirzian says the input from Girl Scout members helped guide what the center is today – sustainable structures designed to seamlessly integrate with the natural desert landscape and foster an inspirational learning environment.
"The Girl Scouts’ vision for the property was a welcoming and flexible place that reflects their leadership values such as using resources wisely, providing a sustainable community impact and fostering connections with nature," she says. "They wanted an urban program center, with camp appeal, that both girls and adults could utilize. Most importantly, they wanted the desert to be celebrated and the buildings to be environmentally efficient and sustainable."
Imirzian points out the raised walkways, which protect the desert floor and allow the water from South Mountain to flow unimpeded into an underground water management system. Also, the roofs of the cabins, which are raised on caissons, also direct rainwater to flow into basins beneath them and provide water for surrounding plants. These features limit the damage to the desert from grade circulation, and allow reestablishment of the desert landscape where it had been removed from previous activities.
She also says the use of recycled building materials, conservation of the native trees and plants, low water use fixtures and strategically placed windows and skylights for natural lighting are all important features supporting the sustainable design.
A major contribution to the project was a $5 million donation from the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation -- the largest donation in Girl Scouts history. Other notable gifts include those from The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation, and the Girl Scouts themselves, who raised more than $1 million in cookie sales, according to a press release.
"The camp is derived from the vision and goals of the Girl Scouts – and the commitment of the members, staff, leadership and board was essential to make it all possible," Imirzian says. "The Leadership Center is a symbol of pride for the Girl Scouts and, in keeping with the Girl Scouts values, fosters community responsibility and engagement."