Black Desert House has been designed by Oller & Pejic Architecture, situated in Yucca Valley, which is located near Palm Springs, east of Los Angeles in the high desert near the Joshua Tree National Park. Upon first meeting the clients, the architects had found that they shared a common aesthetic and process and after seeing the property. They knew the project was like nothing else they had ever done, a once in a lifetime opportunity. Beyond the technical and regulatory challenges of building on the site- several previous owners had tried and given up– there was the challenge of how to build appropriately on such a sublime and pristine site. It is akin to building a house in a natural cathedral.
Here is a description of the project from the architects: Our client had given us a brief but compelling instruction at the start of the process- to build a house like a shadow. This had a very specific relevance to the desert area where the sunlight is often so bright that the eye’s only resting place is the shadows.
Unfortunately, the site had been graded in the 1960′s when the area was first subdivided for development. A small flat pad had been created by flattening several rock outcroppings and filing in a saddle between the outcroppings. To try to reverse this scar would have been cost prohibitive and ultimately impossible. It would be a further challenge to try to address this in the design of the new house. The house would be located on a precipice with almost 360 degree views to the horizon and a large boulder blocking views back to the road.
A long process of research began with the clients showing us images of houses they found intriguing- mostly contemporary houses that showed a more aggressive formal and spatial language than the mid-century modern homes that have become the de-facto style of the desert southwest.
We looked back at precedents for how architects have dealt with houses located in similar topography and found that generally they either sought to integrate the built work into the landscape, as in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and later Rudolf Shindler or to hold the architecture aloof from the landscape as in the European modernist tradition of Mies van der Rohe. While on a completely virgin site, the lightly treading minimalist approach would be preferred, here we decided that the Western American tradition of Land Art would serve as a better starting point, marrying the two tendencies in a tense relationship with the house clawing the ground for purchase while maintaining its otherness.
The house would replace the missing mountain that was scraped away, but not as a mountain, but a shadow or negative of the rock; what was found once the rock was removed, a hard glinting obsidian shard.
Concept in place, we began fleshing out the spaces and movement through the house. We wanted the experience of navigating the house to remind one of traversing the site outside. The rooms are arranged in a linear sequence from living room to bedrooms with the kitchen and dining in the middle, all wrapping around a inner courtyard which adds a crucial intermediate space in the entry sequence and a protected exterior space in the harsh climate.
The living room was summed up succinctly by the homeowner as a chic sleeping bag. The space, recessed into the hillside with a solid earthen wall to lean your back against as you survey the horizon is a literal campsite which finds its precedent in the native cliff dwellings of the Southwest.
The dark color of the house interior adds to the primordial cave-like feeling. During the day, the interior of the house recedes and the views are more pronounced. At night the house completely dematerializes and the muted lighting and stars outside blend to form an infinite backdrop for contemplation.
The project would never have come about without the continued efforts of the entire team. The design was a collaborative effort between Marc and Michele and the architects. The patience and dedication of the builder, Avian Rogers and her subcontractors was crucial to the success of the project. Everyone who worked on the project knew it was something out of the ordinary and put forth incredible effort to see it completed.
The Tucson Mountain Retreat is located within the Sonoran Desert; an extremely lush, exposed, arid expanse of land that emits a sense of stillness and permanency, and holds mysteries of magical proportions. Designed by architecture studio DUST, the 3,640 square foot home is carefully sited in response to the adjacent arroyos, rock out-croppings, ancient cacti, animal migration paths, air movement, sun exposure and views. Great effort was invested to minimize the physical impact of the home in such a fragile environment, while at the same time attempting to create a place that would serve as a backdrop to life and strengthen the sacred connections to the awe-inspiring mystical landscape.
Intentionally isolating the parking over 400 feet from the house, one must traverse and engage the desert by walking along a narrow footpath toward the house, passing through a dense clustered area of cacti and Palo Verde that obscure direct views of the home Upon each progressive footstep, the house slowly reveals itself, rising out of the ground. The entry sequence, a series of playfully engaging concrete steps, dissolves into the desert. As one ascends, each step offers an alternative decision and a new adventure. Through this process, movement slows and senses are stimulated, leaving the rush of city life behind. The home is primarily made of Rammed Earth, a material that uses widely available soil, provides desirable thermal mass and has virtually no adverse environmental side effects. Historically vernacular to arid regions, it fits well within the Sonoran Desert, while at the same time it embodies inherent poetic qualities that engage the visual, tactile and auditory senses of all who experience it.
The program of the home is divided into three distinct and isolated zones; living, sleeping, and music recording/home entertainment. Each zone must be accessed by leaving the occupied zone, stepping outside, and entering a different space. This separation resolves the clients’ desired acoustic separation while at the same time, offers a unique opportunity to continuously experience the raw desert landscape.
Rooted in the desert, where water is always scarce, the design incorporates a generous 30,000 gallon rainwater harvesting system with an advanced filtration system that makes our most precious resource available for all household uses.
Photographs: Jeff Goldberg/Esto
Levin residence is a desert home nestled on Dove Mountain in Marana, Arizona, designed by Ibarra Rosano Design Architects. An Indianapolis-based couple commissioned the architects for a 3,520 square foot modern desert vacation house that could eventually be converted to a year-round residence. The clients needed enough space to accommodate their adult daughters’ families as well, and the floor plan is designed based on simplicity, functionality and “collapsibility”, enabling the house to be operated as a smaller home when the guests are away.
The residence is configured into three separate volumes that are suspended above the desert, minimizing disruptions to the natural environment and providing shade to desert animals. To avoid covering a dry creek running through the middle of the site, the architects separated the garage from the house and built a covered bridge to connect them. A second bridge connects the main house to the guest wing. Supported by post-tensioned cantilevered concrete slabs, the bulk of the structure consists of wood structural insulated panels that are clad in either steel rain screens or stucco. The house points southeast to maximize access to sunlight and breezes.
Photos: © Bill Timmerman
This spectacular mountaintop resort home, which was spotted on Sotheby’s Realty, is situated in the acclaimed Desert Mountain, in Scottsdale, Arizona. The stunning single level transitional retreat features an open plan with retracting walls of glass providing seamless indoor/outdoor living and commanding views of the Valley of the Sun. Casual elegance is perfectly expressed throughout this 6,000 square foot, five bedroom, five-and-a-half bathroom home, from the stone and tile work to the furnishings, colors and textures. Experience ultimate outdoor living in the enchanting great room lanai and expansive poolside patio, both perched above dramatic vistas. Relax in the serene master suite complete with sleek Carrerea marble spa. The home also comes complete with a beautifully designed and fully-equipped guest casita.
This fabulous retreat is priced at $6,999,500, which includes all furnishings and a golf membership, from here.
This Arizona desert residence is located in an expansive golf community highlighting stunning desert views from almost every space in Scottsdale. Designed by Lake|Flato Architects and constructed by The Construction Zone, the site was truly challenging, but the architects managed to plan a 4,500 square foot home that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. According to the project developers, the house maximizes the desert views, allowing its inhabitants to fully enjoy their unique natural environment:
“The careful design makes this possible as views to neighboring houses are edited out focused instead on distant mountains. While the residence presents an unassuming, modest scale to the street, it steps down with the slope of the site allowing the spaces inside to become quite generous. Oversize pivot doors and large expanses of glass allow abundant light and air into these spaces while broad overhangs and shading devices protect them from the harsh desert sun.”
Photos: Bill Timmerman
Copper Sky Residence is an impressive custom home designed for a family of five by Swabuck Partners, nestled into the side of a rocky hill in Paradise Valley, Arizona. The architects design was guided by the clients love for outdoor living and the inherent qualities that the surrounding native desert landscaping has to offer. The deep roof slopes conform to the slope of the mountain and cantilevered terraces help to mitigate the home’s imprint on the property.
The use of desert colors and textures helps to blend the home into the landscape. The municipality would not allow a three-story structure, so the garage was ingeniously tucked underneath the main living floor, while the master suite occupies the top floor. Boulders were applies to the sides of the retaining walls along the driveway to create the appearance that it was carved out of the hillside.
The 19,000 square foot home sits on five acres with four bedrooms, which includes a guest house with one bedroom and one bathroom. The interior spaces were designed by interior design firm David Michael Miller Associates. The interiors of the home take full advantage of the natural light and the surrounding views and blur the boundaries between the interior and exterior. The indoor and outdoor spaces range from soaring and open to small and intimate.
The entry terrace leads from the garage level up to the front door. The guest house is on the right side of this image.
The entry door has been constructed of 5-inch-thick mahogany panels that floats between layers of laminated glass. A grid of 21 panels of onyx appears to float above the entryway.
Large cantilevers offer shade from the Arizona sun, keeping the house cooler and creating terraces.
The great room features a grid of Fossil Creek flagstone flooring.
Comfortable and casual dining room, yet simple and elegant.
The kitchen picks up on a darker desert palette that includes Red Dragon granite and Wingate black cabinetry.
Cozy, quiet home office.
The master bedroom retreat features an incredible view to the mountains as well as city lights in the distance. To take advantage of the view, a motorized 12-foot x 15-foot door opens to a private terrace with a fire pit.
Upstairs, a sitting area in the master suite makes the top floor its own retreat.
Master bedroom sitting area, with indoor / outdoor appeal, and drastic city views.
A bedroom opens to a mountain terrace and abuts 12-foot by 18-foot boulders.
Spa-like bathroom set right up against the mountain.
Well-placed boulders cleverly conceal an outdoor shower, providing privacy yet keeping the open-air feeling.
The hillside was reconstructed to support a waterfall with a geotech mesh for safety, boulders were brought in and moved to cover it.
The designers made sure that the tint of the patio’s concrete matched the landscape.
A waterfall flows down from the top of the hill, giving the illusion that it flows under the back patio, is brought through the house and terminates at this fountain.
This incredible project is on a site with fabulous mountain views of Paradise Valley, Arizona. Designed by architecture firm Chen + Suchart Studio, this 3,968 square foot (368.64 square meters) residence is comprised of a series of parallel sandblasted concrete block walls configured in a way that allows the landscape and the views to flow freely through the spaces. These walls orient the spaces to the undisturbed views of Pinnacle Peak, the McDowell Mountains, Four Peaks, and the Superstition Mountains, while controlled openings within the walls to capture characteristics of the immediate site and landscape, specific views of the mountains beyond, and the desert sky.
The garages and entry court are located on the first level. The majority of the project’s program is located on the main level at one elevation due to the clients age. Two other bedrooms are located at different elevations, and by means of the section, allow for privacy and a more distinct focus on the specific qualities of views and the desert landscape. Via
A metal clad roof is situated between the concrete block walls and inflects to focus on specific views.
Set on twenty acres in Bellevue, Idaho, Outpost rises from the high desert floor against the backdrop of the Sawtooth Mountains. Designed by Seattle-based architecture firm Olson Kundig Architects, this 3,882 square foot house has been designed to age gracefully. The structure has been built using concrete blocks, steel and plywood. Large windows on all four sides frame vistas of the changing scenery. A key element of Outpost is the long, rectangular “Paradise Garden”, sheltered and separated from the high desert landscape by eleven-foot high walls. Within, the owner has planted roses, grapes and espaliered fruit trees. Outpost is a residence and a studio/workshop. The entrance/ground floor is the office/studio as well as laundry, powder room, garage and mechanical room. The second floor is the 25-foot open-plan living/dining public space. There is a deck off the living space. The third floor is the master suite.