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Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joy

Designed by Tucson-based architecture practice Studio Rick Joy, Desert Nomad House is cradled into the curve of a secluded, bowl-like land formation, three square volumes come together to form a home that provides unique, singular vantage points out onto a landscape dotted with Saguaro and Ocotillo.

Project description by architect:

A secluded bowl-like land formation cradles three square volumes, the architecture settling into low-impact equilibrium among the famed Sonoran saguaros. The landscape surrounding the site provides opportunities for dramatic perspectives; each primary space —living, bedroom and small den—is intentionally oriented toward a singular view.

desert house in Arizona surrounded with cactus image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

The living room looks out onto an intense southwest view in the early evening, as the setting sun highlights a craggy rock hill and draws the eye toward the shadowed foreground at the base of the Santa Catalina mountains which are bathed in the reverse sunset. Once night sets in, the city lights of Tucson emerge. The experience of sunlight from the bedroom is different; there, the view highlights the rising sun illuminating a stunning rock face at the top of the Tucson mountains to the southwest and crowns the saguaros and ocotillo near the house. In the intimate den, the aperture frames the nearby rocks and saguaro.

metallic house at desert surrounded with old cactuses image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

modern house in a desert in Tucson Arizona surrounded with desert plants image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

The volumes that contain each separate zone have a single aperture from which each sun-lighting event can be enjoyed. Each of the volumes is slightly elevated and independent from the others, requiring a desert walk on footpaths to move between them. These paths connect visitors to the land and reinforce the house’s purposeful isolation. Our desire to care for the site’s fragile nature prompted the elevation of the volumes, allowing water and animals to move freely beneath them. This way, the landscape of eons ago remains as undisturbed as possible despite this strong visual intervention.

Architectural plan drawing Plan

Architectural section drawing Section

Plate steel clads each element on the exterior, while maple veneer lines the interior walls. The way in which these materials are installed — with articulated panels and exposed fasteners — emphasizes the applied nature of the skin. This skin makes room for a ventilated air space behind it to exhaust heat through natural convection currents. Together, the aesthetic and practical features of the steel are a nod to the logic of nature and reminds visitors of the human-made interventions at play. The design of the interior integrates the structural simplicity of the shape of the structures through its subtle translucent glass partitions and a kitchen island rendered in plate stainless steel. Wooden sleeping decks cap each form, for enjoying the desert night sky, and a small carport constructed of steel grating subtly tucks itself into a depression at the entry hill above. 

a desert house surrounded with wild nature image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

From the land, the presence of the volumes goes nearly unnoticed, much like a group of hunter’s blinds. Drawing closer, their elusive nature dissipates as they begin to pull apart. The architecture emerges through the relationship between these three volumes, instrumental to each other and to the land.

desert mountains with big cactus plants image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joyimage © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joyimage © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

the cactuses surrounded the metallic house in desert image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joyimage © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

hose in shape of separated box in desert image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

an old cactus behind the house in desert image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

large and old cactuses in Arizona desert image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

house with illumination surrounded by desert cactus at sunset image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

bedroom with big window and illumination image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

living room with rust furniture and big glass window image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

sunlight hitting an old Persian carpet through glass window image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

kitchen island in the living area image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

wooden table in living room image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

cozy living space with red carpet and wooden table image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

room with beautiful desert mountain view image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

bedroom with large glass window image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

office room with big windows image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

shade and shadow on the metallic wall image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

desert plants and vegetation image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

large green cactus image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

Rocky Mountain in desert image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

metallic washing basin with spectacular view of desert through glass window image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

joyja ocotillo in a desert in arizona image © ESTO, Jeff Goldberg

a cactus in from of bedroom window at desert image © Bill Timmerman

metallic wall facade image © Bill Timmerman

concrete steps at entrance door image © Bill Timmerman

rustic metall facade image © Bill Timmerman

modern house with metal walls image © Bill Timmerman

red metal wall image © Bill Timmerman

joyja ocotillo and cactus in a desert in arizona image © Bill Timmerman

many cactus plants in a mountainous desert in Tucson image © Bill Timmerman

bedroom with wooden frame image © Bill Timmerman

bathroom metallic washing basin image © Bill Timmerman

house with illumination at night image © Bill Timmerman

night in desert image © Bill Timmerman

the illumination of the house can be seen through window image © Bill Timmerman

glass windows illuminated at night image © Bill Timmerman

modern house in desert surrounded by wild cactus image © Bill Timmerman

concrete steps image © Bill Timmerman

Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joyimage © Bill Timmerman

Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joyimage © Bill Timmerman

desert house image © Bill Timmerman

Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joyimage © Bill Timmerman

Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joyimage © Bill Timmerman

mountainous desert image © Bill Timmerman

Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joyimage © Bill Timmerman

Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joyimage © Bill Timmerman

huge green cactuses surrounded this house image © Bill Timmerman

cactus at nightimage © Bill Timmerman

Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joyimage © Bill Timmerman

Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joyimage © Bill Timmerman

Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joyimage © Bill Timmerman

cozy living room with star lamps image © Bill Timmerman

living room with carpet, chairs and table image © Bill Timmerman

a house in the middle of Arizona desert image © Bill Timmerman

cactusimage © Bill Timmerman

glass window image © Bill Timmerman

Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joyimage © Bill Timmerman

mountain desert image © Bill Timmerman

cactus with atun fruits image © Bill Timmerman

empty room with large glass window image © Bill Timmerman

architectural model shown the topography of the terrain image © Bill Timmerman

Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joyimage © Bill Timmerman

Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joyimage © Bill Timmerman

cactus image © Bill Timmerman

Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona by Studio Rick Joyimage © Bill Timmerman

Site PlanSite Plan

 

Project Name: Desert Nomad House

Architecture fim: Rick Joy Architects, Inc. (Studio Rick Joy)

Primcipal architect: Rick Joy 

Project team: Andy Tinucci, Cade Hayes, Chelsea Grassinger, Franz Buhler

Location: Tucson, AZ, USA

Design year: 1999

Construction year(s): 2001-2002, 2005-2006

Completion date: 2006

Gross square footage: 1,540 ft²

Client(s): Walter Cecil

Structural engineer: S.W. Engineering Structural

Mechanical: Otterbein Mechanical Engineering

Electrical: United Electric, Lambach Electrical

Plumbing: Richard Mayers

Steel: Parsons Steel

General contractor: Rick Joy Architects

Services: Architecture, Interiors, Construction

Program: Residence for one

Structural system: Concrete pier and steel beams, with wood wall / roof framing

Photography: ESTO, Jeff Goldberg, Bill Timmerman

 

Major materials: Raw 10 Gage Steel, Stainless Steel, Maple Wood, Teak Wood

Doors: AZ Sash & Door

Hardware: Fusital H 5014 satin door levers

Interior Finishes:

Wall cladding: Maple veneer panels

Cabinetwork: Seva Vasilyev

Cabinet Pulls: Sugatsune

Carpenters: WJ Lang, Chris Helgeson, Everett Melton

Ceiling Fans: Granger Dayton ceiling fans

Appliances: Sub Zero


By Naser N. Ibrahim

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