A Sustainable, Modern Home Frames a Prickly Desert Landscape
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A Sustainable, Modern Home Frames a Prickly Desert Landscape

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By Lucy Wang
Conceived as an extension of the Arizona landscape, this eco-friendly, modern house approaches near net-zero energy consumption.

Approached by clients who wanted to simplify their lifestyle and reconnect with the landscape, Phoenix–based Wendell Burnette Architects have designed the Hidden Valley Desert House as a "long pavilion for living."

"A teddy-bear cholla field growing out of a prominent out-crop of pinkish-red shale stone which is found running along the entire eastern edge of the site," say the architects.

Located on a south-facing saguaro-studded knoll, the low-lying, modern dwelling is set on a plaster-covered concrete plinth sunken into the pinkish earth in parallel to the contours running east to west. 

Above the plinth hovers a shade canopy large enough to not only house all the mechanical systems, water storage, and energy supply, but also to provide sufficient shade from the harsh sun, particularly for the outdoor terraces on the west and east ends.

The stainless steel canopy fascia hides the rooftop photovoltaic solar panels.

Sandwiched between the plinth and canopy is a "dispersed core of mass forms," explains the firm, who arranged the layout to frame focused desert views and minimize the percentage of glass to wall.

The open-plan kitchen, dining area, and living area is located in the heart of the home.

"The plinth level is lived upon as one contiguous space under one continuous canopy that connects the 2,000-square-foot indoor programmed space with 1,000 square feet of fully programmed/fully shaded outdoor space," the architects explain.

The main entry to the east includes an outdoor kitchen and dining area, as well as an aviary for the owners' birds.

The entry lookout to the east overlooks views of the Continental Mountains.

In contrast to the upper level’s seamless connection with the outdoors, the enclosed nature of the lower level is evocative of a cave.

A view of the wine/fire lounge looking out toward the entry.

The hidden solar-photovoltaic array and water harvesting systems on the roof draw enough natural resources to meet the clients' needs.

Shop the Look 

Massive glazing in the communal area frame views of a desert knoll to the north.

The master bedroom terrace includes an outdoor shower to the north, and a koi pond to the south.

"The underside of the canopy inside and outside is a black theatrical fabric scrim that creates a continuous feeling of deep, soft shade, while subtly screening the conventional, gang-nail, wood-truss roof structure and black-fabric-faced R-38 sound/thermal batt insulation above," notes the firm.

Hidden Valley Desert House Lower-Level Floor Plan

Hidden Valley Desert House Main-Level Floor Plan

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Wendell Burnette Architects /@wendellburnettearchitects

Builder/ General Contractor: Verge Design Build

Structural Engineer: Rudow + Berry, Inc

Civil Engineer: SSE

Lighting Design: Creative Design in Lighting

Interior Design: Wendell Burnette Architects

Mechanical/ Plumbing: Otterbein Engineering

Electrical: Woodward Engineering

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