Quartz Mountain Residence, Paradise Valley, Arizona
Steve Martino & Associates, Phoenix, Arizona
"Transforming. The landscape architect‘s ability to combine architectural elements with dramatic plant materials make this such a welcoming space. Great lesson value on sustainability in residential design, this garden emphasizes innovations in the use of native plants and shade trees."
— 2006 Professional Awards Jury Comments
Image #1 shows how the site looked when the landscape architect first saw it. The owners had just begun the remodel with a design-build contractor. The landscape architect looked at the plans and told the owners and contractor that they were making a big mistake and about to ruin the classic lines of this modernist 60’s house. Plans called for a 12’ high window wall facing west. The new addition did not have any exterior doors or defined outdoor spaces.
The landscape architect directed the contractor’s architect in changing the family room configuration to have pocketing glass walls at each end. The landscape architect then took over design of the outdoor spaces and shade structures.
Site: A narrow 40-year house needed to be updated and enlarged for a growing family. Automobiles and asphalt dominated the arrival and outdoor experience. A drive-thru carport and a cul-de-sac sized asphalt parking area (4,300 square foot) were located at the ‘front’ door. The house was one lot away from the constant noise of a major roadway and lacked any outdoor shaded areas.
Program: The program was quite basic. The owners wanted to enclose the carport for more living space, define outdoor areas for entertaining, and create a small poolside cabana. The Midwestern owners also wanted the desert experience to be more a part of their daily lives.
Special Features: The large, fan cooled covered terraces provide transition/buffer spaces to the outdoors; glass pocket walls disappear into the side walls to create seamless indoor/outdoor spaces; fountains that overpower the traffic noise with their delightful sounds of splashing water are a major feature of the adjacent rooms. Sun shielding devices were used at all glass areas and backed-up with native trees for additional shading.
The design has blurred the edges and limits of the house and garden. The house emphasizes the garden. The garden is part of the house. The house celebrates the climate while native plants celebrate the desert.
This project addresses the difficult conflict of contemporary expectations in an environment whose foundation is the fragile Sonoran desert landscape.
Rather than denying the desert the house opens to celebrate it. The use of native plants has created a habitat garden that directly links the garden to the ecological processes of the site as well as the region. Non-native trees and plants have been removed and replaced with natives. The house has receded from the street into the landscape.
The house has virtually disappeared from the street view due to the placement of new desert trees. A ‘straight shot’ asphalt drive has been realigned to visually control views to and from the street. The project’s contribution to the streetscape is a dense, native landscape. The modest rectangular lawn functions for outdoor entertaining as wells as a children’s play space.
To reduce air-conditioning loads, desert shade trees and large roof overhangs shield the glass and the interior spaces. Ceiling fans are used throughout. The house transforms to take advantage of good weather by opening up to become a pavilion in the garden. Birds could fly through the house if they choose to. Most importantly, in an area where perfectly fine homes are torn down and replaced with large new homes, these owners chose to ‘recycle’ and remodel their existing house. The large perforated metal shade screen at the study was constructed of metal recycled from a local salvage yard.
This project illustrates how new design work can be artful and at the same time responsible to the natural environment. The house celebrates where we live rather make apologies for it. The house strives to be in harmony with the site. A 6,600 square foot asphalt driveway and parking area has been replaced with porous decomposed granite paving. The entry courtyard with Palo Verde trees replaces the guest parking area outside the front door.
The outdoor living space is larger than the enclosed indoor living spaces. The original house was 2,500 square feet. The new 600 square foot family room (carport enclosure) opens up to the ‘bookend’ courtyards to create a 2,600 square foot “indoor/outdoor” room that is larger than the original home. Interior walls were also removed to create views through the house to the gardens.
A row of salvaged desert trees were located between the house and the street. The trees changed the house from being an object to becoming a place.
The house and garden are one.
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