Desert City House in Paradise Valley

Located on a relatively flat one acre parcel, the site is opposite the Arizona Canal with panoramic views to the Squaw Peak Mountain reserve to the north and Camelback Mountain to the east. The house designed by Marwan Al-Sayed Architects is conceived as a thick mass casting, with two one story volumes defining the entry courtyard and acting as a base for the plaster volume upper story bridge, which houses the main living, dining, and kitchen spaces, as well as outdoor dining decks. This “reverse” living plan makes sense in the hot dry desert climate of Paradise Valley. Bedrooms on the ground level are semi sunken into the earth, affording privacy, shade, and immediacy to the surrounding desert floor. The bedrooms stay cool and intimate- while the upper public level affords the spectacular views of the surrounding topography and participates in the constant light show of vast sky, clouds and colors that so typifies the urban desert experience.

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In deliberate contrast to the lower mass, protruding mysterious glass Light Monitors serve to absorb the abundant sky and sun, and simultaneously, act as a thermal draw for fresh air intakes that allow the house to naturally cool during the shoulder seasons. At night, these Monitors glow against the dark sky. The material palette is kept deliberately monotone to help accentuate the subtle green-grays, silvers and green casts of the desert landscape. Integral white cast concrete walls (20” thick) lend an almost classical, Mediterranean effect, while helping dissipate and reflect heat gain via the ‘albedo; effect. Plaster volumes are also rendered in shades of white. The overall effect of the plaster volumes and translucent white glass light monitors is a subtle white-on-white tonal range, accentuated internally with small subtle shades of green, green yellow, and black through the use of tile, wood, and resin. Urban desert living is made simple, graced by strong apertures in thick walls, slightly inflected and with proportions more commonly found in ancient cities than the cities and homes that surround us today.

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