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High Desert Retreat | Palm Desert, California | 2018

High Desert Retreat | Palm Desert, California | 2018

Architects: Aidlin Darling Design
Client: Private
Photographers: Joe Fletcher, Adam Rouse

Design Team: Joshua Aidlin, Adam Rouse, Ben Damron, Sarah Kia, and Jeff LaBoskey
General Contractor: D.W. Johnston Construction, Inc.
Structural Engineers: Strandberg Engineering 

Sited on a rocky desert plateau outside of Palm Desert, this single-family residence is tightly nestled within a constellation of boulders, overlooking the Coachella Valley and the San Jacinto Mountain Range beyond.

The brief from the clients, a couple looking for a retreat in the desert well away from their urban lives, was simple: create a modest home that didn't remove a single Pinyon tree, embraced the rustic desert climate, and framed the always changing chameleon-like vistas from within.

After camping on the site to intimately observe and absorb'—the nuances of the micro-climate, the vast diurnal temperature swings, the specific positioning of the existing trees and sculptural boulders, and to comprehend the power of the ever-changing light conditions on the surrounding mountain ranges'—an attitude about the home began to emerge. The home would perform as a simple framing device for the occupant to observe the dynamic surrounding terrain. The structure would be exceedingly quiet and crisp in its geometry, intentionally contrasting the organic forms of the desert, and very low to the ground to minimize its presence.

The diagram of the home is a triptych of elements: A floating roof plane, a collection of wooden volumes, two concrete anchor walls.

The square floating roof performs numerous functions. On the climatic side, it hovers over the home, providing respite from the beating sun both in its opaque form but also as a porous wooden lattice. A singular aperture is carved out of the roof plane, framing the dramatic sky above while also providing the pool area with ample sun exposure below.

Below the roof plane reside seven rectilinear volumes that contain the home's program. Conceptually they began as a singular rectilinear mass that splits apart and slides out into the landscape to both maximize the experience of the surrounding terrain and create a critical open space in the center of the home. This space would become both the entry and the dining room. A location for the public and private spaces to meet. A place to break bread and capture both sunrise and sunset as well as breezes rising up the hillside and through the house.

While the wooden volumes house the critical program for the home, the entry sequence from the garage to the house is articulated by the orientation and form of two concrete entry walls. They are intentionally juxtaposed to create a void between them, ultimately guiding the occupant to the glazed entry of the home. The parallel concrete walls not only frame the entry and the dining room beyond but, most importantly, the heroic view to the East and the Coachella Valley below.

The materials of the home were chosen to contrast with the lighter palette of the desert landscape quietly. The blackened wood siding is pine wood that is acetylated, burnt, wire-brushed, stained, and sealed. All of these treatments are intended to provide a highly textured finish that is both bug and rot-resistant and minimizes movement within a climate known for its large diurnal temperature swings. The interior is a collage of concrete, wood, stone, and steel, each responding to its immediate application to maximize durability while providing the home with warmth and a soulful nesting quality.

high desert retreat

high desert retreat

high desert retreat

American Architecture
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