Desert House / Circle West Architects

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Articulating defined spaces in retrofitting a 20-year-old residence through a punctuation of natural daylight, exterior spatial relationships and a reduction in use of finishes. Desert House is a modern, sustainable intervention in the desert. The single-family residence renovation represents a forward thinking approach to desert life.

Architect: Circle West Architects
Location: 4812 E Berneil Drive, , Arizona, USA
Project Team: Peter M. Koliopoulos AIA
General Contractor: Urban Edge Builders
Structural Engineer: BDA Engineers
Mechanical Engineer: Tiglas Engineering Assoc.
Electrical Engineer: CR Engineers
Landscape Architect: Arcadiascape, LLC
Project Area: 5,000 sqf
Project Year: 2008
Photographs: Courtesy of Circle West Architects

Courtesy of Circle West Architects

The one-acre site is within a single-family residential neighborhood, surrounded by textured desert mountains to the south, west, and northeast. The pure structure cuts a clean sharp edge through the revegetative desert landscape.

Courtesy of Circle West Architects

The newly added program focus in the renewed design is to perforate the original frame of the existing home to allow a vibrant, natural daylighting experience. A large overhang on the South façade screens the plane of glass from the harsh summer sun, while allowing winter light to wash the interior walls. The east elevation is shaded by mature vegetation, while the west face of the residence has limited, strategically placed openings protected with large overhangs. Views to the surrounding mountains and desert sky naturally radiate through the home. The additive program refines the circulation experience and relationships between uses for a spontaneous and organic residential experience.

Courtesy of Circle West Architects

The concrete and stucco structure of the original house remains in tact minimizing material required to be sent to the landfill. A large percentage of the construction and building materials are high recycled content such as the glass, zinc siding, and concrete flooring. New high-efficiency HVAC units are utilized to condition the added space.


All foreign landscaping and turf has been replaced with native plantings with very low water requirements. The one-acre parcel has been regraded to capture the entire roof and site rainwater, reducing the total amount of stormwater required to be treated by the municipality while naturally supplementing the vegetations needs.

Courtesy of Circle West Architects

The layering of elements from the natural “filtering” of the desert landscape, to the exterior materials of zinc metal siding and glass sets a dramatic relationship of a refreshing living experience.

Courtesy of Circle West Architects
Cite: "Desert House / Circle West Architects" 04 May 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>