Desert Concrete is Forever
Marwan Al-Sayed Architects designed this interesting, stark and forbidding-looking concrete house in Paradise Valley, Arizona that looks as harsh and uncompromising as the desert landscape that it inhabits.
The house is conceived as an archaic thick mass casting, say the architects. The concrete mass cools the house while cutting off views to the non-descript suburban houses that surround it.
Integral white cast concrete walls create a modern update: a new classic, Mediterranean wall.
The colors reflect the subtle colors of the native planting used throughout. The palette is restricted to a monotone – reflecting the subtle grays, silvers and green casts of the desert landscape.
The architects used a reversed living plan that makes sense in the hot dry desert climate of Arizona. Bedrooms and bathrooms are underneath, on the ground level, and are semi sunken into the earth, affording privacy, shade and immediacy to the desert floor which surrounds it – rooms stay cool and intimate.
Cool light blooms deep down into the private interior spaces via deep stairwells lit by skylights above. Thick 20″ walls insulate and cool the house naturally.
Then on the upper floor above the bedrooms, the upper level affords the spectacular views of the surrounding topography, as well as participates in the constant light show of vast sky, clouds and colors that so typifies the urban desert experience.
A large shaded outdoor living room, that is cooled by concrete above and below is open to the natural desert foliage.
For the landscape, only indigenous desert vegetation is used so the demand for water is minimal. The plants are low water use plants.
An anonymous blank wall faces the neighboring houses affording complete privacy for the residents.
Almost like a sand dune baking in the hot sun, the house has an eerie sense of vastness and peace that comes from the use of the earth-derived materials, just concrete and glass, both essentially dry; one from sand, one from rocks.