On the southern end of the mall, next to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts , you’ll see the city’s best piece of contemporary architecture. Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (7374 E. 2nd St., 480/994-2787, www.smoca.org , 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Wed., 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Thurs., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Fri.–Sat., noon–5 p.m. Sun., $7 adults, $5 students, kids under 15 free, admission free Thurs.) specializes in modern art, architecture, and design, providing a refuge for avant-garde art lovers in the land of cowboy paintings.
Take a walk around the building before heading in. The “eggplant gray” stucco is meant to evoke the McDowell Mountain Range to the east while the shimmering steel facade reflects the frequently blue Arizona sky.
Inside, Will Bruder, the Desert Modernist architect behind Phoenix’s Burton Barr Central Library , deftly converted five theaters of an old cinema into a series of flexible galleries. The ever-changing lineup of exhibitions can be a bit hit or miss, though the museum’s permanent outdoor installation, Knight Rise, never disappoints.
Gaze through an oculus in the ceiling, similar to Rome’s Pantheon. The smooth, gray dome distorts your perception of sky, focusing your attention on the changing colors, from the morning’s bright blues and evening’s deep purples to gathering gray clouds on a stormy day.