Three simple volumes hover above the desert, responding to the challenges of the site and to an ethic of building with minimal disruption to the natural environment.
The site slopes toward the west into a wash and is split by a smaller tributary valley, splitting the buildable area in half. Our solution was to leave the cars behind and link the parking area to the main house by a bridge. Upon arrival the owners and their guests experience a cantilevered walk that allows rainwater and wildlife to flow beneath it.
The sun’s path and the client’s goals of having no steps combined into a design that needed to lift up off the ground in order to satisfy everything for which we were asked.
Positioning the house to face the slightly east of south (the ideal solar orientation) means that the floor starts tangent to the earth on the east end and remains level as the land slopes downward, leaving the floor floating above the desert.
The use of the cantilevered slabs running perpendicular to the topography is a nature preservation move, a solar orientation move, a universal accessibility move, and it creates habitat for desert animals beneath its floating form.
Breaking the house into smaller pavilions – the main living wing and the guest wing – allows the house to function as a smaller house when guests are away, saving energy. This strategy also allows both pavilions to open to the north and south, providing cross ventilation and transparency through the house.
Overhangs protect the long southern exposures, while the east and west open minimally to capture targeted views.
Splitting the house also creates an exterior living space, with views to the mountains to the east and city lights to the south. The library that bridges between the two pavilions shelters the outdoor room from the harsh western sun and future houses on the west, while still allowing a view of the near mountains that backdrop the fireplace wall.
The tubular forms help to crop the omnipresent desert landscape into more intelligible vignettes much like a photographer’s square, celebrating the natural setting and view of the city lights the owner did not even realize they had.
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