An Art Studio With Mirror-Like Glazing Floats Over a Desert Wash

In Paradise Valley, a contemporary art studio provides an inspirational workspace with minimal landscape impact.
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Tired of painting in a spare bedroom that was too small and dark for his liking, artist Chad Little asked Scottsdale–based Chen + Suchart Studio to design and build an art studio as an addition to his desert home in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Rather than mimic the architecture of the artist's existing home—a contemporary stucco structure by Phoenix-based Thompson + Pollari—the architects instead decided to create a studio with its own identity.

Looking north, a clear contrast can be seen between the new steel-and-glass art studio and the existing stucco residence.

Extending from the south end of the existing garage, the 1,400-square-foot addition is clad in weathering steel panels and full-height insulated glazing with a mirror-like finish that reflects the desert landscape and protects against solar heat gain.

Twelve-foot-tall weathering steel panels clad the new addition. Standard modules were used to speed up the fabrication process.

The minimalist design is echoed throughout the unit's light site footprint. Featuring a steel-beam floor structure that is elevated atop six 36-inch diameter concrete caissons, the studio appears to float over a desert wash.

Elevated above a desert wash, the studio is supported by six 36-inch diameter concrete caissons.

The new addition sits adjacent to a landscaped courtyard and an existing fire pit. Camelback Mountain can be seen in the distance.

Inside, the building is minimally dressed with polished concrete floors, white-painted drywall, and LED track lights.

"The interior space is configured as an open plan to allow the freedom of the studio to be used as a working artist’s studio or gallery space," explain the architects.

Two white pocket-doors flanking the stainless steel work station conceal storage (to the right) and a hallway (to the left) that connects to the existing home and a bathroom.

An abundance of natural light creates ideal work conditions for the artist, while the one-inch-thick insulated glass helps mitigate solar heat gain.

Three movable partitions were added to give Little flexibility in exhibiting his work, which can be displayed without nails thanks to an integrated artwork hanging system.

"An integrated artwork hanging system is embedded and detailed with the drywall to establish a datum in the space for the constant hanging of artwork for review and display," note the architects.

Set on sliders, the full-height glazed doors open up to seamlessly connect the art studio with the outdoors.

"The Little Art Studio engages the circumstances of the site by deliberately establishing its own language that is at once a clear departure from the language of the existing main residence, while maintaining respect for the site’s desert landscape," adds the firm.

Full-height glazing mainly wraps around the west and south sides of the structure to frame views of Camelback Mountain.

Round concrete blocks leading to a sliding door entrance contrast against the volume's unique angular shape.

Track lighting illuminates the gallery space at night.

The Little Art Studio floor plan.

The Little Art Studio site plan.

You can find out more about Chad Little's artwork on his website.

Project Credits:

Architect of Record:  Chen + Suchart Studio / @chensuchartstudio

Builder/ General Contractor: Verge Design Build

Structural Engineer: BDA Design, J. Greg Brickley, SE

Landscape Design / Interior Design: Chen + Suchart Studio


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