Modern Ruin

The overarching goal is to convey the feeling of a modern ruin—clean, elegant form with a weathered, hand-hewn feel. As the building site is at the boundary of Agua Fria Village on the Camino Real de la Tierra Adentro, we merged a modernist sensibility with a materiality drawn from this once-rural community. The rusting steel panels and exposed rammed-earth sit gracefully in the company of vernacular chicken houses, garden sheds and old barns. The structure has an unmistakable sense of mass and solidity while still encouraging interplay between indoor and outdoor environments. The architect and owner worked collaboratively to conceptualize the design and plan its execution. It was critical to create a plan that allowed the owner/builder to perform as much of the labor and finishing as possible.


The owner wanted to create a mix of earthen and industrial architecture  - a Modern RuinThe design incorporates rammed earth and weathered  steel panels . The house is organized in an “L” shaped plan, with a two story steel clad concrete tower at its hinge point.  One wing contains a living/dining room with open web steel trusses, exposed rammed earth walls and a roll-up glass garage door. The other wing includes a carport and prefabricated metal studio that provides studio, office and workshop space. The tower houses an entry and support functions; a bedroom with access to the rooftop patio and garden. 

The  client was the builder of the house.  While not a contractor by trade he had the skills and perseverance  to build  this ancient-contemporary home.  Concrete forms were  repurposed for rammed earth formwork, and eventually milled down to finish lumber.  The site is developed with permaculture  techniques. Water catchment and gray water reuse are key to maintaining cottonwood and aspen trees, limber pines, native grasses and restoring the property's historic orchard.  Most importantly, the home is literally made from the earth – with excavation soil used in the rammed earth mixture  - and one distant day it will return to the earth.


Sustainable Features

Passive solar orientation and plate steel overhangs, natural ventilation, solar-thermal radiant floor heating, rainwater catchment, a green roof, permaculture landscape and  reused building materials.

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