ArchDaily | Broadcasting Architecture Worldwidethe world's most visited architecture website

Sign up now and start saving and organizing your favorite architecture projects and photos


Find the most inspiring products for your projects in our Product Catalog.


Get the ArchDaily Chrome Extension and be inspired with every new tab. Install here »

  1. ArchDaily
  2. Projects
  3. Houses
  4. United States
  5. Robert Stone
  6. 2009
  7. Rosa Muerta / Robert Stone

Rosa Muerta / Robert Stone

  • 01:00 - 9 February, 2010
Rosa Muerta / Robert Stone
Rosa Muerta / Robert Stone, © Brad Lansill
© Brad Lansill

© Brad Lansill © Brad Lansill © Brad Lansill © Brad Lansill +13

  • Architects

  • Location

    Joshua Tree, California- open desert site
  • Architect

    Robert Stone
  • Program

    Vacation house – open to the elements: uses shading, thermal mass, solar absorbtion, and breeze flow for temperature regulation.
  • Area

    1300.0 sqm
  • Project Year

  • Photographs

From the architect. After visiting his website, I got in touch with Robert Stone and exchanged a few emails… He is a reader of ArchDaily and was very excited to share his work with the readers, and I was also very excited about it after learning more about him and what is behind Rosa Muerta and other projects he has been working on in the California desert.

Robert was born and raised in Palm Springs, Ca. in a decent copy of a Craig Ellwood house and across the street from a real Schindler house. After his masters degree at UC Berkeley, Robert spent over a decade in a studio in Los Angeles making experimental social-sculpture projects that were exhibited internationally. I mention this because it's a clear influence on Rosa Muerta and Acido Dorado, two projects that came out of Robert's passion for art, his architectural background, and his D.I.Y. punk roots:

© Brad Lansill
© Brad Lansill

Instead of looking for a client, Robert went solo to the desert to build vacation houses for rent, turning into an entrepreneur with Pretty Vacant Properties and probing that independent D.I.Y. architecture is possible.

It is basically the American punk D.I.Y. approach that has engendered all contemporary independent music and film since the 1970's. . .  now finally applied to architecture.

The passion Robert puts on his work is really inspiring, specially for young architects that debate between working at some else's practice or kick start their own firm/business.

I hope to bring you more about Robert's work in the near future. In the meanwhile, more about Rosa Muerta after the break:

Scale: The house is set 4'-0« into the ground so that it's highest point is 8' tall and it almost looks like it is too low to be a habitable structure. The overhang at the front step is 6'-8. Once inside the ceilings are almost 10' high.

I have developed a present, local, and personal aesthetic language that I find can engage its specific physical and cultural context in more subtle and powerful ways than the more universal and abstract approaches that dominate the scene. I am well aware that it is very different than the leading edge of mainstream architecture, and I am sure that some of the things that make it resonate so strongly here in the Southern California desert also make it difficult for outsiders to fully assemble, but I am going for depth rather than breadth.

To place this work among other approaches, imagine a corporeal post-modernism. . . without the irony, diagrammatic detachment or architectural tourist references. Imagine critical regionalism that works with the dirty and real cultural context rather than idealized archetypes. Imagine modernism that shows the pathology and scars accrued over a century of cultural use and misuse. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I have found a lot of possibilities for new architecture.

© Brad Lansill
© Brad Lansill

There is also in this architecture the application of a lot of lessons learned from the subject/object relationship fostered in contemporary art. This approach regrettably has no parallel in architecture today, but it makes possible a more dynamic conception of how people inhabit and perform in the space, how the wider culture can be engaged, and where meaning is located and how it is produced or discovered.

© Brad Lansill
© Brad Lansill

What I am proposing that is new, other than this particular desert modern aesthetic, is a way of working that is more exploratory in terms of meaning, personal in its inspiration, direct its execution, and meaningful to its intended audience. More than anything I hope to stake out a wider field for architecture to engage its context in more interesting and nuanced ways. This house is just one small step out into that expanded field.

Cite: "Rosa Muerta / Robert Stone" 09 Feb 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments


Internet Download Manager Free · May 03, 2014

Remarkable! Its actually remarkable paragraph, I have got much clear idea about from this piece of writing.

Robert Stone · April 27, 2014

Surely Robert Stone is one of the best writers of individual scenes in all of our literature – think of the scene in A Flag for Sunrise where Tabor shoots his dogs, or in Children of Light where members of a film crew mistake the phrase “Bosch’s Garden” for “Butch’s Garden”, which they speculate is an S&M joint in Los Angeles.

Paul Litterick · August 03, 2012

Heavy Metal house: Rosa Muerta / Robert Stone | ArchDaily via @archdaily

penguin · March 08, 2012

@pkging_machine The building of my dreams~ is this.

Corey Claunch · February 29, 2012

Punk-Rock-Dessert-Architecture as touted by Robert Stone Rosa Muerta via @archdaily

JonLuceBuilder · February 29, 2012

Punk-Rock-Dessert-Architecture as touted by Robert Stone Rosa Muerta via @archdaily

FKArchitects · February 29, 2012

Punk-Rock-Dessert-Architecture as touted by Robert Stone Rosa Muerta via @archdaily

Marcos Aquino · February 29, 2012

Rosa Muerta / Robert Stone | ArchDaily via @archdaily

metin aygün · February 29, 2012

Rosa Muerta / Robert Stone | ArchDaily via @archdaily

Jose · May 31, 2011

Here is a better desert house:

Bárbara · April 25, 2011

Rosa Muerta / Robert Stone | ArchDaily via @archdaily - só vou casar pra passar a lua de mel aí!!

david basulto · February 25, 2011

@jofrec mira estas dos casas, inspirado en Kaufmann, el arq es un tipo super interesante

Bárbara · February 12, 2011

Rosa Muerta / Robert Stone | ArchDaily via @archdaily - só vou casar pra passar a lua de mel aí!!

pieter k · December 27, 2010

I stayed at Rosa Muerta for a couple of days and is was an amazing experience. It's architecture, it's freedom, it's pure lust, it's contemplating, it's full absorbtion in the intense dessert.
Camping is too primitive to experience certain aspects of nature, especially in harsh climates like the dessert, and staying in a house too; it blocks too much. Roso Muerta hits the spot.
Personally i'm not much of a decorator, but the dessert evolkes some sort of delirium, and the big heart seems to fit the mood over there just right. I guess you have to free yourself from a lot of stuff they teach you at school in order to fully absorb the insanity (and beauty) of the dessert. Same for Rosa Muerta; it's a longing for freedom and intensity.

albertoferrero · December 22, 2010

A very good project in the concept, its relationship with environment, the outdoor livingroom is very good ¡But is so kitch! the heart, the roses, the balls in the pergola like a horizontal balaustrade. A very good Arquitecht with an strange taste for the details and ornament.

PD: Sorry for my english

YILUN ZHANG · September 14, 2010

Reading: "Rosa Muerta / Robert Stone | ArchDaily"( )

exdeniz · May 06, 2010 - ??? ?????, ?????? ???? ? ?????? ???? ?????????.

vw · April 26, 2010

Yeah - a 35 degree drop at night...
From (an average maximum) 105.2 Degrees F. all the way down to (an average minimum)70.6 Degrees F. Brrrrr!!!! (via:

I bet those walls radiating 105 Degrees F. at night feels like you're sleeping in a freeking oven!

Andrei P · May 26, 2010 12:28 AM

@vw Radiation isn't measured in F degrees. A black wall gets even hotter than the outside temperature anyway. The wall remains chiller in the morning, and by night the heat gets released gradually. Objects around a radiating body accumulate heat according to the distance between the source and the receptor. A heated wall can't radiate more heat than an open fire. Even so, the effect is diminished by the surrounding air temperature and breeze. If you'll sit near a highway by night, you'll see what thermal mass can do, and it's actually a very pleasant feeling.

Andrei P · April 25, 2010

People, the desert may be sunny during the day, but gets really chilly by night. Has any of you heard about thermal mass? These black walls accumulate heat during the day and radiate it by night. This place is enough shaded and naturally ventilated to create a comfortable ambiance during the hot desert noon. Of course criticism shouldn't be banned, but let that criticism be relevant.

Vinicius Bressan · April 16, 2010

Acido Dorado - e Rosa Muerta - | Qual eu compro?

karhu · April 06, 2010

the black concrete is ingenious - no-one would sit outside during the day in the desert anyway - when it gets cold at night, the retained energy would provide for some comfortable use;

the geometry is an interesting contrast to the setting; the last thing i would want to see is adobe or organic off-form - too obvious a choice. i like the lines of this structure.

such vitriol in many of the comments. so much hate. i suppose it's easier to be a smartarse when hiding behind a computer.

vw · April 06, 2010 09:54 PM

Black might be ingenious anywhere OTHER THAN the desert!

You wouldn't be able to walk through the "open air living space" (to hide in the windowless bedroom) without your flesh feelining like it might burst into flames during the daytime.

jdcarling · April 06, 2010

I am sure a comment about a burned rear end is in there somewhere already, but black concrete in the desert sun = burned rears. Nice work though, and its built. Everything I do now makes it through permitting then gets cancelled due to funding. It is picking up a bit now with a few actual construction starts.

frank · March 21, 2010

I didn't know that building your own home, was such a big deal. As far as i know, it's been done since the beginning of time.... I guess the difference here is that the guy built a time share.

I think the architect just had too many of his friends visit the site and support his own work. I mean, He did do so himself... These comments are unreal.

Ash Reynolds · March 15, 2010

Coming to this debate late- Negro must the new blanco- si? and who ever said American's don't get irony. This house is the most interesting thing I have seen in days- no need to defend it or what you have written Mr Stone- this is art and you have made something memorable- like a tatoo- but in a good way.

RGoldschmidt · February 28, 2010

So that is the criticism: "to be or not to be" kitch.

Will Green · February 24, 2010

Stone delivers an apparently simple building that expresses and evokes so much with such simple strokes. Dali’s Nuclear Mysticism & rose-meditative…a little Smithson (remember the tar?). Ad Reinhardt, sure. It’s Post-apocalyptic Mies AND Taliesin (East, also from borrowed labor & materials) AFTER the big fire. Blade Runner. Zen AND drug culture. Meister Eckhart and Merleau-Ponty (sounds pretentious only if you don’t read). OK, but when and where has a new building conjured good porn, imagined prison sex or the smell of the back room of a very good 80s gay bar? And when have you seen a building that allows you to experience a sandstorm while you are still in bed or the smell of a wet coyote while you sit in a pool? You can hose the heart down in your heels!!
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a building that turned me on so much and in so many ways. It is more of a state of mind--dreaming to become a building--that really doesn’t give a damn about its inhabitants or what anyone thinks about it. Not caring….that is the real turn on. Personification in architecture? Wow.
Rosa Muerta repels every attempt to attribute to any other aesthetic, fad or movement while successfully thwarting our human desire to categorize and re-categorize what we see (in an effort to either dismiss OR promote). This is probably the root cause of frustration, sarcasm or jealousy towards his ideas and his work. Another badge.
This project will stick in my brain. Very few buildings ever have. Add to this that Stone built this by hand with such restricted budget and space and challenging location/elements/economics and it makes those who object for purely aesthetic (or egotistical) reasons look really, really small.

Renato Melo · February 17, 2010

What should be the black material on the floor?

Renato Melo.

ece esmer · February 17, 2010

darkness at its best /

1point0 · February 16, 2010

I have similar thoughts, very cool

MDC · February 14, 2010

Restarting post-modernism without the irony is a hard thing to even imagine.
post-modernism in architecture WAS all about ironic references, while other disciplines were not. Other disciplines ran with it in a many other directions, and have 30 years of subsequent interesting work to show for it and are still moving forward. architecture just retreated into mannerist modernism (thanks LA school!) and has been stuck ever since in an ever narrowing formal vocabulary with weak theory pasted on top.

I doubt architects can hear this right now. These comments may be evidence- as people squirm between opposites calling it kitch on one hand and pretentious on the other without recognising the potential of the ideas for entirely different outcomes. Which I get the sense, is what Stone is really excited about. The "look" of contemporary architecture is so homogeneous that an explosion of new ideas seems inevitable at some point. I am not holding my breath.Maybe the timing is right, but I fear you may have an uphill battle. What if Zumthor was a california punk?

Jeff D. · February 14, 2010

Robert - cool stuff as to be expected from you!

dUFFY · February 14, 2010

I think the building has a cold relationship with its context, however in this cosmic landscape the extremes are more extenuated. So I believe the stark linearity is justified. Beautiful building, well done.


MDC · February 13, 2010

1. This guy reconfigured the econimics of architecture projects to build whatever he wants without a client or a trust fund.

2. I don't know where else you've seen a mirrored ceiling, japanese bondage detailed, hearts and flowers, sunken black modern house before but please provide links because I've never seen anything like this. I am not sure what keeps that roof up though?

3. He welds, lays block, plumbs, etc the whole thing himself. . not just playing contractor but doing it.

4. He has a clear theory of his own methods. . and sounds smart.

Any one of those four would make me take notice. You're all just afraid of this guy, and it's just one little house. This does remind me of the first time I heard Minor Threat. . I wasn't from DC so I didn't know the whole story, and I didn't love every song but the truth and clarity of it is undeniable. Keep it up mr. Stone.

I want there to be hundreds of guys doing this. What's wrong with all of you?

Nicholas Williams · February 13, 2010 11:17 PM

Chill out guys! How many of you have actually built something other than a chipboard model? Robert Stone has become his own developer and has the fortunate ability to do whatever the f*ck he wants because HE IS THE CLIENT. If any one of you had this much control over your destiny you would not be so unhappy. Stop Projecting!!!

Great job Mr Stone, I admire that you have the balls to challenge these "architectural geniuses" who are probably all 5th year thesis students at Cornell. It's about time some one challenges the conventional aesthetics of today's architecture scene. It is these architects who we remember when they are gone 50 years into the future.

I myself have become my own contractor and developer as well so that I can explore my creative freedom too. Thanks for the inspiration!

Gonçalo Casqueiro · February 13, 2010

Rosa Muerta / Robert Stone #architecture /cc @feedly

ari endra kristianto · February 13, 2010

i think this is good design and idea :)

adrian · February 13, 2010

guys... it has a heart! thats all.

L Mitt · February 13, 2010

This project just doesn't seem to go away, does it? I'll admit to being attracted to a black box in the desert. From a distance it's quite fetching. Not new, nothing Neutra didn't do better some 60 years ago, but still quite nice. Mies, who did this sort of thing long, long ago, and better, used to say something to the effect, "I don't feel the need to invent a new style every Monday morning." I'd question the benefits of a black structure in a desert which frequently reaches into the 120s, but what the hell?

IMHO, as one nears the structure, the effect really breaks down, the actual detailing coming off, sorry, as really kitschy. Oh well! It's obviously very dear to the designer, and must be to the client. Go with it! God knows, not all my creations are masterpieces, but I do strive to avoid kitsch.

VW · February 13, 2010

I see CensoredDailey is at it again.......

vw · February 13, 2010 04:30 AM

There are few things I hate more than being censored - on the internet of all places (land of the free - home of endless porn - but don't bad mouth a project that David likes).

L Mitt (below) hit the nail on the head!
A black building in a desert?
And where are the windows?

Oscar · February 13, 2010

Robert, great project and words to aspire by. As I mature in the profession I see more of what you tried to teach as a TA back in Berkeley some 16 years ago, hopefully more of us escape the blindness...

Eric Skiba · February 12, 2010

Robert Stone&#39s Rosa Muerta in Joshua Tree via @archdaily

rewFer · February 11, 2010

I am really taken with this project and feel it is a wonderful amalgam of the local architectural heritage, the environment and professed DIY/Punk aesthetic. That last piece is something that a number of us who grew up in the scene will always try to grasp at as we age and I applaud Robert for his effort.
A comment on pretention and ego. This is not some unbuilt and unbuildable, SCI Arch, exercise in mental masturbation, upon which the designer is heaping piles of bullshit rationalization. This is built. It is there. It was built to a budget, to a code, and to an inspired design. It's not pompous if you've got the goods to back it up.
Thank you Mr. Stone for your work and for engaging this conversation.
And for the love of Mike, the heart is just a joyous expression, if you can't deal with it, go sit in a dark room and listen to Bauhaus and drive it from your memory.

Raymond G Girard · February 11, 2010

The desert literally flows THROUGH this stunning open house in Joshua Tree, CA (@archdaily)

jacque · February 11, 2010

I can see Jason's frustration. It is a shame that the Robert's choice of wording lets him down.

Ramon · February 11, 2010

Robert, bad-ass my brother. I look forward to seeing Rosa Muerta someday soon. Go BEARS!

alejandro · February 11, 2010

"El que se enoja pierde" dicen por ahí, on top of everything said I would just add that we don´t have to get angry on either side of the discussion, the author or the commentators.
The architect, client, builder is obviously a very particular kind of person with strong motivations, feelings, ideas. I invite him to take comments as what they are: simple comments with first impressions of a project and not a 3 year in the making life experience. Commentators please relax, cut some slack, give your impressions but avoid angry criticism; it turns the discussion rather vulgar and mundane.

Miguel · February 11, 2010

Personaly I like the project...
Thanks Robert...
looking forward to see another project from you here.

Michael · February 11, 2010

This is my second attempt at posting so forgive me if I repeat myself.

Lovely work. Really.
I realise you're all grown up and stuff, but please accept my sympathy for all the foul personal attacks in this thread. They are unwarranted and contribute nothing to the debate.

Why the personal insults? It's one thing to criticise, but another thing entirely to label someone a 'pretentious, egotistical blowhard' based on some perfectly reasonable text. The writing is clear, legible and doesn't smack of ego or pretense. I think you are way out of line. I look forward to the day when you have something published.

Michael · February 11, 2010

Dear Robert,

Bravo for putting yourself out there.
I think your work is fantastic.
And I think your writing is pretty good too.
I have absolutely no idea where Jason et al are coming from.
Your text is clear and legible and doesn't smack of ego or pretense.
(I sympathise with you, by the way. I have had work published on this site and it is very upsetting to read ridiculous personal insults that have nothing to do with the work.)

Labelling someone a a 'pretentious, egotistical blowhard' based on nothing but a few paras of perfectly good text is pretty extreme.
I look forward to the day when you have something published.
What goes around comes around.

peter .f · February 13, 2010 02:16 PM

if Jason's and others work is anything like their ability to give critique then not really worth waiting for! totally over these annoying simplistic comments with absolutely no understanding of what they are actually talking about! sigh...................................................!

Andrei P · February 11, 2010

Is everyone aware that the internet is open to the very narrow-minded people too? I've seen a lot of these on archdaily and I got used to ignore the comments. But it's great to see the architect taking a stance for his own work. I respect that.
As for the house, it is a strong statement itself.

Vix · February 10, 2010

I love this place... you can go to the desert and just spend a day hanging at this house or it's sister Acido dorado. It's not precious, it'sinviting, calming, there's nothing to do but watchi the light play across the wall , soak in the hot tub, amble past the forbidden hill and then in the morning greet a six inch scorpion on the's definitely a place to sleep, eat and play....glamping to the max. You should go....

Jason · February 10, 2010

We're all adults here, perhaps we could do without the censoring of comments, David. Knowing that "unacceptable" comments that make a valid point are not allowed to be shown immediately discredits the entire conversation.

mark · February 10, 2010

What a great string of comments and criticisms. It is always interesting to read about what architects/designers perceive in other peoples work. Nice rebuttal by Robert Stone. Is it bad for the profiled project's architect to respond?

David Basulto · February 16, 2010 02:33 AM


I don't think it's bad. Actually, I try to encourage it... isn't it great that you have the chance to discuss the work with the author?

Malcolm Y · February 10, 2010

Ah Ah... the american guys !

Mies Van der Rohe.... in the desert
(" can´t remember your name...")

The project and the coments....habe a point of kitsch.
Mirror ceiling pannels....? ah ah
As a small in Dallas or Dakooooooooooota...!

cedric · February 10, 2010

paint in black :

Bix · February 10, 2010

I, for one, would love to spend a few nights there with good friends, a guitar, and a couple cases of PBR. That is the point. D.I.Y. is doing what you love, for yourself, damn those that say you can't.

David Basulto · February 10, 2010 05:18 AM


Couldn´t agree more (except for the beer) :)

Vacation People · February 10, 2010

Rosa Muerta / Robert Stone | ArchDaily: Instead of looking for a client, Robert went solo to the desert to build v...

alejandro · February 10, 2010

the first thing I thought: tarantino moment
the second thing I thought: tarantino
the third thing I thought: tarantino

Franklin Romero · February 11, 2010 03:00 AM

same here lol

WPstudios · February 10, 2010

RT @nicholaspatten I Like: Rosa Muerta.

Nicholas Patten · February 10, 2010

I Like: Rosa Muerta.

eb · February 10, 2010

love the picts, it has an ethereal quality to it for sure.

Niebla · February 10, 2010

From Dusk Till Dawn

mark · February 10, 2010

The building is beautiful. But it's not about the building only... its about how the building interacts with the land ... spatialy and is rooted in the designers/architect personal story. As much as it may seem like an "object" building to the casual observer and eager critic... one needs to look at the images for the the space that is being made and how each element... building and landscape are working together... beautifully. As for the discription again i want to point you to the comment that this building is a small example of a much larger idea by the architect. This building actually has an idea beyond being a stepping stone to Dwell and Architectural Record Fame. Today, and idea alone is enough to applaud, any idea at all... even a bad one can be enough to seem intellegent. This project benifits the architect having a really good idea. It an open invatition to everyone to put yourself out there and make something... and don't be afraid. Read what the architect's interview again... and this time think about what is being said... this is an invatition to everyone to make something...of their own. This is a language of architecture that is personal to him but deals with the fundemental and universal qualities of any architecture. I think the scary thing to alot of people is that ideas expressed by mr stone show and openness to everything .. there is no secret club here that only a select few can belong. He is telling you that you too can make something beautiful... trust yourself, do the work, don't be timid, acknowledge yourself your past and your passions and face what make you alittle uncomfortable... because when that happens you know you are on to something. Most importantly...don't be afraid. really as i think about it... this project was concieved as an artist would concieve it... it just happans to be architecture... and i think most architects are deathly afraid of expressing anything vaguly personal and having to stand on their own.( let the computer do it... Look what we can do now!!! patterns, curvey stuff, things that defy the laws of physics!!! ya hoo!!!) i think as a whole architects feel so much safer in the club. What mr stone is saying goes against every moment spent in school, every dollar spent on the latest trend of the month magazine and coffee table tomb of our own preordained lords and collective saviors and every minute spent in that little office wishing to make it big with the next studio, garage and 2nd story addition... (if the client just understood me and my brilliance then, then it would be good and i would be good!... stupid clients!)
As for the heart...what about it bothers you all...corbu never did one? maybe your on to something?

peter .f · February 13, 2010 12:35 PM

Very well put and I totally agree with you mostly!.... I am of the opinion that the profession gains much these days by having the 'skin' ...'form' developing architecture that is in so many ways cutting edge (the club). Much like science a total dedication to mastering specialised sections of technology and ideas is totally beneficial to the world of architectural progress. Likewise this work offered by Robert Stone with a very personalised 'artists' evolution of an idea maintains the individual in works of architecture. I am really looking forward to what Robert will be offering in the future.

Jason · February 10, 2010 01:04 AM

I fully understand that it is not just about the building. I fully understand the idea, and I fully appreciate the idea. My criticism was of the way in which it was expressed.

Cespur · February 10, 2010

I like the overall design of it, but in combination with the abandoned dessert location it makes it kind creepy & scary.

yeah · February 09, 2010

I like this building ... but the pretentious,kitchy heart? ...why?

steve · February 10, 2010 01:41 PM

i agree, the overall black is badass within the desert setting, but, the focaling heart, eh, terrible, what an upsetting insertion...

David Basulto · February 10, 2010 02:38 AM

Why not?

If the author wants to decorate it that way, it's ok. Actually, I love that detail, I can't tell exactly why but I think that it's the kind of detail like when you sign the first page of your sketchook, or when you customize your laptop... something very personal.

Jason · February 09, 2010

I like the project... a lot. Reading the description, however, makes me want to punch this guy in the face. What a pretentious, egotistical blowhard. Don't we have enough of that in the profession already?

L Mitt · February 10, 2010 01:11 AM

A pretentious, egotistical blowhard, and in the field of architecture? How utterly shocking! By the way, if you can force yourself to wade through it, maybe you can tell us what Mark is trying to educate us about.


Comments are closed

Read comments