Line in the Sand

The site for this residence consists of a gently up-sloping 2 acre parcel, located near the West entrance to Joshua Tree National Park in California’s Mojave Desert. Dotted with yuccas, barrel cactus, chollas, prickly pears, and the park’s namesake Joshua trees, this virgin landscape embodies the unusual natural beauty, distinct sunrises and night skies, and temperature fluctuations distinctive of the high desert.

We were approached by a young family to design a modest 1,975 SF 3 bedroom home that included the comforts of a full time residence, while maintaining the unembellished experiences of a retreat; a home at ease within the landscape it occupies, a home that reveals the diurnal and seasonal characteristics of the desert.

Stitching together the numerous buildable zones identified by the site analysis, the project site plan emerged as a literal “line in the sand” traced through the landscape preserving the delicate native species, while deftly twisting and turning into the site, maximizing the experience of the desert environment. As an alternative to the tendency of the architectural object dropped on the land, the resulting geometry cradles an internalized courtyard –a domesticated landscape -where all rooms of the home primarily orient and the outdoor lifestyle of the family is centered. Outside of this courtyard, the terrain is left untouched, conserving the native vegetation, establishing sight lines through the house, and maximizing the integral relationship of the residents and their environs.

The programmatic configuration expands upon the linear, sequential site planning strategy. From approach, to entry, to living spaces, to bedrooms, and terminating at the pool terrace, the house enfolds as a progression of experiences and exposures to the site. A spatial collage of domesticity, desert landscape, and distant views are continuously collapsing interior and exterior environments.

Project Team: Aaron Neubert (Principal), Jina Seo (Project Architect), Yuxin Liu, Jeremy Limsenben / Structural Engineer: Craig Phillips Engineering / Civil Engineer: SanMina Engineering