Dry land has long carried a certain reputation—pounding sun, harsh temperature, maybe even inhospitable terrains—which is perhaps what makes homes built into the desert so fascinating. “The desert, with its rim of arid mountains spotted like the leopard’s skin or tattooed with amazing patterns of creation, is a grand garden,” Frank Lloyd Wright once said about the unique beauty of the topography, which has captured the attention of architects for centuries.
Though desert architecture has been around for as long as humans have been building shelters, more modern iterations can offer extremely valuable lessons on sustainability and vernacular design. When done well, homes in the desert tame the wild of arid conditions without overpowering the beauty of them. Below AD surveys seven incredible homes built into the desert that show the beauty of building in barren land.
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1. Starburst House (Joshua Tree, California)
Located in Joshua Tree, California, the Starburst House is a spirited example of shipping container architecture. The impressive home, which spans 2,000 square feet, was designed by Whitaker Studio and inspired by a similar structure the firm created for an office building in Germany. James Whitaker, the firm’s founder, got the idea for the shape of the building from a popular science experiment in which a crystal is grown outward on a piece of string.
2. Doolittle House (Joshua Tree, California)
It took 26 years to complete the Kellog Doolittle house. Designed by Kendrick Bangs Kellogg, the 4,643-square-foot home is defined by 26 cast-concrete vertebrae that create an arachnid-like roof. The impressive structure is a popular Airbnb rental in Joshua Tree.
3. Kasbah Telouet (Telouet, Morocco)
Located in Morocco, Kasbah Telouet is a historic palace and the former home of the Glaoui family, a powerful political clan during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Visually striking, the residence is steeped in a renegade history. Thami El Glaoui, the leader of the Glaoui family, and described as the “Great Gatsby of Morocco” by Atlas Obscura, chose to ally with French colonists during the Moroccan independence movement. When the country declared independence, Glaoui was ousted as a traitor and Kasbah Telouet was left abandoned.
4. Hidden Rock Development Homes (Zion, Utah)
Designed by AD Pro Directory design firm Woods + Dangaran, the Hidden Rock homes are a collection of three properties built into the Mojave Desert in the greater Zion, Utah, area. Each residence features plaster walls that mimic the warm desert sand. Spanning 8,500 square feet, the homes are currently on the market starting at $8.5 million and include wellness-focused amenities such as gyms, saunas, infinity pools, and spas.
5. Norman Lykes House (Phoenix)
Though Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and studio, may be his most famous desert design, the Norman Lykes House is just as worthy of recognition. Located in Phoenix and built into the side of a desert mountain, the sinuous residence represents Wright’s interest in circular geometry, with the floor plan designed as a collection of concentric circles. The American architect designed the home just before he passed away in 1959, and his apprentice John Rattenbury saw the project to completion.
6. Desert House (Alice Springs, Australia)
Sydney-based firm DunnHillam is responsible for this fascinating home, Desert House. Located in the center of the Australian continent, the home is in Alice Springs, a desert where the temperature can vary extremely throughout the day. The residence is designed to adapt to these extreme conditions. Cut into an existing ridge, the property takes advantage of the thermal mass to regulate temperature. A fly roof creates an updraft and removes heat from the building.
7. Ecolodge (Siwa, Egypt)
Ecolodge was designed by Paris-based architects Laetitia Delubac and Christian Félix as a holiday home in Siwa, Egypt. To fully integrate the structure within the landscape, the house is made from locally sourced materials including mud, sand, and salt from nearby lakes.
Source: Architecture Digest
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