Innovative Architecture of the Tubac House
Interested in learning about some innovative architecture?
Lying placidly in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona is a modest yet eye catching dwelling known as the Tubac House. Designed by Rick Joy, the Tubac House, constructed of untreated steel, sits among the cacti, sand and arid mountains like a discarded piece of rusted metal. However, upon further inspection, it becomes evident that the building is inarguably beautiful and serene in its raw form as material, geography and climate meld seamlessly under the hot sun and cool nights of the desert.
Joy, who has lived and worked in the desert for over a decade, is guided by the desert's capacity to overwhelm the senses, which allows him to indulge in a modern architecture that propagates sensory experience and coheres with the landscape yet does not conform with established norms. "The desert," Joy says of the Sonoran, "is a fantastic place in the most correct meaning of the word; it is at times a dreamlike fantasy of a landscape. . . . the desert's beauty extends beyond objects and things to an atmosphere of place that is defined by quality of light and other sensory kinds of input." Joy's philosophies are easily applied to architecture, and the Tubac House plays on all these ideas of the fantastic.
The house is defined by two U-shaped retaining walls that are set into a hillside, each gently sloping away from the approach road. The only view available from the road is of the protruding points of the roof peaking over the grade. The gravel driveway crunches under the feet of the visitors as they stroll up to the house, past somewhat ominous rows of cacti. The two main sections of the house are separated by a courtyard allowing for the landscape to penetrate the exterior walls. Once up the stairs and in the courtyard, it's easy for the senses to get caught off guard by the sudden change in environment: shade, trickling water, sage bushes and reflections. To the west is a cropped view of Tumacacaori Park, which is only enhanced by a negative edge pool that sits like a still, perfect mirror. Inside the house, the coarseness of the raw steel and arid landscape contrasts with the cool refinement of the steel, plaster and glass that make up the interior. A multitude of windows puncture and protrude from the house in order to capture and reshape the surrounding panoramic views of the desert.
Joy's home is one that complicates interpretation and environmental experience, yet it is designed with such a simple form: clean lines, solid materials, open space, a plant here, a small pool there. Each of these are minute details that, when combined into a single structure, create a smart and sophisticated house. For Joy, it's all about structure blending with, yet also slightly deviating from, surrounding. For the average home owner/builder, his tactics are useful ones. If you've got the landscape, use it. If you have the view, utilize it. Don't over do it with pompous décor and irrelevant design. If it's going to contrast, make it contrast for a purpose and with a sense of intrigue. Joy says of his Tubac House that it "was about doing the right thing in this fragile landscape," which is what architecture and design should be about-doing the right thing in the right space. To read more, click here.