A place to escape suburbia.
Amidst a sea of beige stucco and pink tile along the southern base of South Mountain, Eddie Jones and wife Lisa Johnson discovered a forgotten slice of pristine desert. What was once part of the proposed site for Frank Lloyd Wright’s unbuilt San Marcos in the Desert Resort was now home to a 40-foot diameter water tank, seen by the community as a supposed blight on their suburban tranquility and left undeveloped. Eddie and Lisa saw opportunity where others saw misfortune, embracing the conspicuous cylinder as part of the story of their family’s home.
A series of arcing walls bound the private patios, yards, and pool rippling out from the house, recalling the curvature of the tank in their composition defining outdoor spaces. Upon approach from the road, cylindrical steps lead through the desert brush to a passage between curving concrete block walls that shape the exterior entry court.
The front door nestles between a plane of rammed earth and another cylindrical volume, slipping between a helical staircase that connects the main living areas to the master suite. The winding stair anchors the organizational spine of the home: a central corridor emphasized by a glass bridge at the upper level and a monitor skylight matching its length delivering natural light to the interior. North of the corridor sits the public living spaces of the home, with the private bedrooms and office spaces to the south.
Two-foot-thick rammed earth walls rise from the soil to frame the main volume of the home, bonding it to the site and orienting the interior towards light and views. In concert with these earthen walls, the butterfly roof opens to the southern sun and northern vista to the mountain preserve, with interior spaces set deeply to shade from direct heat and glare. This roof also channels rainwater toward the center skylight and out to the cylindrical stair tower, where a sculptural steel gutter and rain chain guide water down to the ground, following the contours of the hillside into the native landscape surrounding the home.