STAAB Residence by Chen + Suchart Studio situated in Scottsdale, Arizona. The 3,000 ft² (279 m²) house presents itself as a series of sand-blasted 12-8-16 masonry walls upon which a stainless steel and glass-clad volume float. The context for this site consists of larger homes on one-acre lots. Aesthetically, the neighboring houses’ architectural language is more often than not, associated with speculative developer trends and styles, rather than an integrated understanding of the site, the views, and other opportunities. As a result, the project required a strategy which would edit out the immediate context of this neighborhood while focusing on distant views of the McDowell Mountains to the north and the valley to the south and southwest. The project also seeks to create a protected courtyard space for the backyard and pool area as an immediate focus for the lower level of the house in contrast to the second level taking advantage of the more distant views.
The masonry walls are solid with minimal openings in order to edit out the existing context of the neighborhood while also ensuring privacy. In specific locations associated with the entry courtyard and the outdoor space for a guest bedroom, the masonry gradually opens up it’s coursing to allow for light and air. A separate weathering steel plate clad volume to the south houses the garage while also providing privacy to the pool area and backyard from a neighboring house.
Entering into the residence takes one along a monolithic field of desert grasses and through a portal created by two masonry walls and the volume above. One is ushered into a garden space while being focused on the views north of the McDowell Mountains. This garden space offers an area of repose in order to mentally dispose of the immediate context of the neighborhood before entering the house. Upon entering, the main living space is configured as one uninterrupted volume of space. These public spaces open immediately to the pool and backyard living areas by means of sliding glass panels that fully disappear. The entry garden is maintained as part of the living space’s experience by the stair being as visibly open as possible while maintaining definition to the entry area.
An adjacent series of spaces in between two masonry walls house two guest bedrooms each having their own distinctive experiences of the site. One is focused on the immediate backyard area while the other is focused on the more distant view to the north. One larger bathroom space separates these two bedrooms while the water closet, walk-in shower, and bath configuration also maintain a focused view to the north. The master suite and office are located in the volume above. A panoramic view of the McDowell Mountains to the north is offered in each of these second level spaces. The master bedroom, dressing, and bathroom spaces are configured as one large suite in order to provide an open relationship while emphasizing the panoramic quality of the view to the north. The roof overhangs located on the south and west sides mitigate the solar heat gain while also providing a patio space overlooking the courtyard space.
The upstairs volume is clad in 11 gage 4’ wide stainless steel plate cut to length directly from the coil, and 1” insulated glass panels with a silver colored high-performance thermal coating. The strategy of the cladding for this volume was to create an envelope that would best absorb the environment and allow for a varying perception of color and finish throughout the day.
The Hanging Rock House by Six Degrees Architects situated in Melbourne, Australia. The aim was to take advantage of the site context and views, all within a simple and cost-effective structure. The land offered a panoramic view toward Hanging Rock. Unfortunately, this view is to the South. The challenge was to orientate to the view and maintain direct northern light through the house. With its location on a hill, the sculpting of the land was required prior to construction. This physical integration of the built form with the surroundings reinforces the project’s connection with its context.
The approach to the house is deliberately nonlinear borrowing from ancient traditions. Therefore, there was no provision for a ‘front door’ but instead, there is an ‘arrival courtyard’. The house is organized around a living wing and a sleeping wing with a secondary living space at the junction. This house is the family’s primary residence that caters to all their living needs, all within a simple structure that orientates the inhabitants towards the views and the surrounding environment.
Desert Courtyard House by Wendell Burnette Architects. The 7,200 ft² (669m²) house is located in Scottsdale, AZ . The site is a peninsula of granite outcroppings and towering Saguaro cacti surrounded on all sides by deep perennial desert washes except for a single spit of land affording access from an Ocotillo studded ridge above. The building site, further down a long private drive, levels out toward the west into an edge condition dominated by an expansive vista – layers and layers of distant mountain ranges – that in the evening seem to epitomize the drama of the Arizona Sunset. Due to the elevation of the site beneath the community’s gaze and the entry gate at the road it became important to us – to recede the house as a deep shadow – into the depth and complexity of the desert floor below
When your feet begin to move across this delicate floor you feel as though you have entered a Zen garden. At the eastern edge of our garden, the sound of water is heard trickling – remarkably even in our Desert – for half the year through a fractured decomposing granite boulder field and a rush of cattails. At the highest point of the site we took delight in a large arrow-shaped granite boulder pointed west, a peculiar group of volcanic rocks and a large multi-armed Saguaro between. Standing in this place for the first time, we felt immediately compelled to hold and preserve a microcosm of this precious primordial desert landscape including an equally infinite piece of its indomitable sky.
The plinth was cast in place with one material throughout such that a wall, a floor, a ramp, a step, or a bench could be experienced as part of one contiguous stone. The Verde River eventually connects to the Salt River, which collectively tumbles some of the worlds hardest aggregate through the lowest point of the valley, where along with sand and cement, it is harvested for locally produced concrete. A “highway concrete mix” with oversized 1 ½” aggregate was specifically selected for this project and mixed with a small percentage of the earth pigment – raw umber. We wanted to work the surfaces of the plinth in order to reveal the composite qualities of the material, sand, conglomerate gravel, pebbles, broken stone, in a cement matrix, and consequently a window into the geologic time of this place.
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