By Scott Jarson. Originally published in Defining Desert Living, 2014.
Water in the Desert always creates an oasis. An oasis draws plants and animals to it as iron to magnet. So it’s not surprising the draw that led the owners of the Pond House to create a balance for busy city lives. The mystery of the Pond House starts with the land.
And what a place. At the top of Cave Creek, where geology and happenstance create a unique ecosystem that is quintessential Arizona, at once both dry and wet, an eternal promise of Spring; Arizona roughly translated is “place of many springs”. It could not be more fitting.
The Pond House sits at the blurred line between desert and riparian. A natural swimming hole that at times feeds a raging river, at other times a still pond, and in the driest of times, a remembrance of water.
Imbedded in a dramatic and ancient rock outcrop overlooking a natural stream that’s fed by the Cottonwood Creek watershed, the location called for a sensitive approach and a bold decision. Instead of committing to a full scale home typical of most projects, the owners chose architect Will Bruder to create a modestly scaled sanctuary that encases their everyday needs with luxury, while eschewing the need to oversize the place. The home would become about site, location and detail, not about mere size. A weekend retreat that could welcome a years stay: a calm idyll of scenic contemplation where the noise of urban materialism would retreat into the hushed flow of water and the rustle of cottonwood leaves.
Bruder masterfully sited the home to nestle against the site, yet all but disappear from view. The approach is purposely obscured, following a winding dirt path. What’s visible of the home is restrained: A sculptural wall and line that emerges from the earth, fractal elements and natural materials make it look at once ancient and modern: an upthrust of the earth, natural decay of stone or structure. The sloped coursing of the home’s stonewall elicits a sense of mythical ruins of past cultures... a chameleon.
A footpath guides you to the entry and the courtyard; a metaphorical canyon that offers the first glimpse of water, flowing invitingly from the cast concrete basin and defining the entry court. The water quietly flows down a natural flagstone stair. A narrow slot of colored glass guides you to the door in a welcome mat of light and invites you into the shadow-play of the foyer.
Compressing and entering the house through a sculptural steel door, the reflections from the luminous red resin light slot directs you along a compressed entry, sunken in the desert to shoulder height, a frame of stone, textured concrete, steel and wood, offering visual hints of the undisturbed Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area to the north from strategically placed windows.
Walk down a few steps as you are drawn to the glow of east light beyond and suddenly you are released into the main living space with its elysian views. Carefully crafted to comfort, the Architect selected materials, textures, and volume to give this space its warmth and scale. Large sliding glass doors, a see-through hearth, and spacious cantilevered concrete living deck help dissolve the line between inside and out. Beyond this zone, through another compression of space and stone, lay the master suite which connects to the landscape through generous glass and operable vent panels.
Bruder left nothing to chance. Creating an intimate environment that functions as a unit requires a level of connectivity between form, function and visuals that are not often pursued in larger homes. Interiors, fabrics and art are seamlessly integrated with the architecture and the site. Selectively placed windows of glass and colored translucent resins frame unexpected vistas and perspectives. Will Bruder likens this to “The architectural equivalent to living in a camera.” he said. “With the multiple apertures and lenses, the design and placement allows the owners to view their world as artists, from many different points of view.”
Exploring the site reveals the structure. Viewed from the pond below, the house appears to be part of, and yet float gently above, the unique geology of its setting. Deep overhangs embrace the home in a definitive gesture of shelter. The cantilevered concrete deck floats over the boulders lining the pond and the deep reveal underneath instantly remind the occupants of the history of the site, with a shadow not unlike a bank-side cut that can be seen on most any stream or arroyo.
And the house is anchored...literally. During construction the geology of the pond was revealed. Footings were dug only to find solid rock. What forms the pond is an ancient and massive rock boulder. The same stuff that forms the head of Camelback Mountain and the Papago Buttes many miles south in the Valley. It’s this rock that creates both “narrows” of the stream and the barrier to the underground aquifer allowing water to come to the surface, and evaporate slowly on the wet surface of the rock above. Such is how water is revealed in the Desert.
The owners have created with Bruder a lasting sentiment. An ode to joie de vivre, a physical reminder to live in the moment, to enjoy the simplest of pleasures. Surrounded by calm natural beauty and the most natural palette of material, the very human scale of this home says “stay”.
This home is offered at $1,325,000.00. To view the listing, visit: azarchitecture.com/lis...
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