In January of 2012, a request for proposals was issued by The International Sonoran Desert Alliance (ISDA) and funded through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Our Town program to improve livability in the town of Ajo, Arizona through creative place-making strategies. The International Sonoran Desert Alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the environment, culture, and economy of Sonoran Desert communities. ISDA is based in Ajo, and since 2002, has been working to revitalize the community by re-purposing historic spaces in the town center. ISDA, along with their project partners, Pima County and the Conway School of Landscape Design, worked with the team of Chris Winters + ARC Studios Landscape Architecture, Rob Paulus Architects, LL consulting, Herb Greene and the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, to create a master plan for the Historic Ajo Townsite.
Ajo Arizona occurs in an isolated location in the Sonoran Desert on highway 85 roughly equidistant from Tucson and Phoenix and 43 miles from the Mexican border town of Lukeville/Sonoita. It is the closest community to Organ Pipe National Monument and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge- some of the most remote and beautiful landscapes in the desert southwest. The project site is approximately 13 acres, encompassing the town’s core public spaces extending from the Historic Ajo Plaza to the Curley School Campus. The focus of the project is the improvement of the interface between buildings and the spaces that connect them within the downtown area of the Historic Ajo Townsite. These public spaces create nodes of activity connected by streets and sidewalks across institutional, commercial and residential properties.