Sol is an infill house in the Willo Historic District in midtown Phoenix inspired by the southwestern urban vernacular of the courtyard house. The modern home is designed to both embrace and escape the sun and the city.

Sol sits at the crux of development in Phoenix, just 300 yards from a light rail station in a rapidly urbanizing core, yet surrounded by an early 1900s historic district. This 2300 square foot, new build home built by Boxwell Southwest not only had to gain approval from the Historic Preservation Office, but it had to navigate the reality of a growing metropolis. Although urbanization and historic preservation may typically be at odds, we chose to look to the past in order to design for the more urban future.

The style of the courtyard house was first introduced to the region in the late 17th century and is ideal for urban living in a desert climate. It provides an escape from the bustle of the city while also creating a shaded, naturally cooled outdoor room. Sol is a U-shaped courtyard house with a cantilevered roof projecting towards the open, fourth side. The cantilevered roof creates a generous, covered outdoor living area, sheltered from the sun, while the open side allows breezes to flow across the pool where evaporation cools the air before it cross ventilates the main living space with help from the Venturi Effect. Steps away, the added touches of a custom curved concrete bench and firepit provide a place to warm up, whether by lounging in the sun during the day or by the fire at night.

The house embraces the city primarily in 3 areas that are carved out of an otherwise efficiently designed box. First, the front porch is recessed with walls that flare out towards the street, as if to open its arms and welcome the neighborhood. Once inside, the beams in the open living space extend through the glass and angle up towards the developing midtown skyline. Finally, to get a better view of the skyline while soaking up the cool night sky, an integrated exterior stair leads up to a hidden roof deck, a nod to sleeping porches that are native to the southwest.

The courtyard house originated as an attempt to create an oasis, whether from the sun and heat in desert climates, or the public in populated areas. As the cities of the desert southwest continue to infill, we hope to see the local vernacular form of the courtyard house return to prominence and the potential of their modern interpretations fully explored. Homes should be a refuge: a place to not only hang one's hat but, if you will, rejuvenate the heart and "Sol".

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"Sol" is a new home in the Willo Historic District in Phoenix. The house is a modern interpretation of the vernacular courtyard style found throughout the southwest.

The front uses common materials to the neighborhood in a new modern way. A recessed front porch walls flare out as if to welcome the community

A 10 foot deep cantilevered roof provides consistent shade pool side in the courtyard

A hidden outdoor shower is located between the pool and master bedroom

A stairway leads up to a roof deck, inspired by the historic sleeping porches in the area that take advantage of the cold nights to cool off in the desert.

Driveway lanes lead to a rolling gate for everyday parking. A 2 car garage is accessed of the alley in the rear.

A curved wall shields the courtyard beyond

Cantilevered wood beams angle up towards the growing city skyline. On the left, a sloped area captures the monsoon rainfall and the Mulga Acacia trees will grow to the height of the home over time to provide more shade and privacy.

The wood beams flow from inside to outside and angle up to capture a view of the tallest tower in the area.

The focus of the great room was to connect with the outside patio. The sliding patio doors on the left and high windows on the right open up to create a nice cross breeze, cooling the house.

The kitchen features a custom, stainless steel hood that is flush with the upper cabinets.

Integrated, dimmable LED lighting provides even light throughout the space and extends to the cantilevered patio outside.

Hidden room behind a bookcase door

Hidden room behind a bookcase door

The courtyard lit up at night with midtown Phoenix beyond.

Lights light up the stairs to the roof deck.

Overall view of the courtyard that extends the livable area of the home

Roof deck for taking in the growing skyline and cooling off on the cold desert nights.

Custom firepit and concrete bench off to the side of the pool and hot tub

Main bathroom

Landscape Design
  • Boxwell Southwest


  • 3
  • Full Baths
  • 3
  • Structure
  • House (Single Residence)
  • Style
  • Modern
  • Year
  • 2016
  • Square Feet
  • 2300
  • Lot Size
  • 11,466 SF