â€œThe desert house typology reached an ending point where it became all about overhangs and metalâ€”a common vocabulary of what a desert house should be,â€ said Dan Wood, principal of WORKac. â€œWe felt like that needed to be renewed.â€ For their typological update, Wood and his wife and partner Amale AndraosÂ conceived an off-the-grid guesthouse in Tubac, Arizona, about 45 minutes out of Tucson. The approximately 1,500-square-foot structure will balance on a single column (aÂ pilotos, joked Wood) with an extreme cantilever to create a shaded yard and a triangular frame.Â
The resulting form citesÂ Arcosanti, Taliesin West, Earthships, and Spanish missions.
â€œThere is a culture of embedding the architecture in the landscape that has thisÂ very environmental sort of aspectâ€”the desert has this immediate effect of asking you to respect it because itâ€™s so striking and beautiful,â€ said Andraos.
Starting with the concept of a classic Earthship (a passive house made of natural and recycled materials), Wood and Andraos experimented with thermal and structural mass. Rather than embed the building in the ground like an Earthship, they elevated it, using a weighty mass of adobe bricks to insulate the home. Orienting this thermal mass to the north, a slanted glass wall with photovoltaic panels faces south, its 35-degree angle running parallel to the stairs inside. An outdoor fire pit and garden atop the fireplace conveniently occupies the incongruous space created by the buildingâ€™s two masses coming together.
Inside, the layout is organized with the private roomsâ€”two bedrooms and a bathroomâ€”embedded into the adobe brick mass, andÂ the public spacesâ€”including a kitchen,Â living-and-dining area, and greenhouseâ€”in the glass-enclosed portion. The triangular shape and a series of screens and shades will help to circulate air and provideheating and cooling. â€œWeâ€™ve always beenÂ interested in systemsÂ and architecture that we can play andÂ engage with,â€ Andraos said. â€œThis ties all of it together in a microcosm:Â heat and cooling, air movement, water collection, and growing food and plants.â€ The division of space also allows the architects to play with compression, expanding from eight-foot-high ceilings in the bedrooms and bathroom toÂ 18-foot-ceilings at the apex of the home.
Under the main house, parking spaces will be dug into the ground to further facilitate cool air circulation, and a workshop-toolshed will inhabit the column. The rest of the area is meant to be used as a deck. â€œItâ€™s a very different kind of space under the house, but it still resonates with the traditional typology,â€ Wood said. â€œWeâ€™re trying to see how much we can float, so all of the furniture is suspended.â€
Although the house will feature composting toilets and other sustainable systems, it is meant to be largely manual and will require the residents to interact with it. â€œWe want to engage with that history of Earthship systems with an aesthetic thatâ€™s very ad-hoc, anti-architectural, and DIY, but bring a contemporary take to it.â€