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An experiential rammed earth home

An experiential rammed earth home


A dream to reconnect his roots into the awe inspiring Sonoran Desert, along with a deep seated desire to indulge in a love of music as lifestyle, led client Dr. David Francis to commission the build of this Tucson Mountain Retreat.

The site, with over 900 feet abutting the pristine Saguaro National Park and 360 degree views of endless towering Saguaro Cacti, is an extremely rugged, lush and fragile expanse of land that exudes a sense stillness.

Living area in the Tucson Home


The initial decision to use rammed earth to build the project informed the entire process and contributes to the integration of the home into the landscape. The inherent poetic qualities of rammed earth appear native beside the rock out-croppings and desert flora and fauna.

“The program for this private residence is defined by a desire to share the gifts of the unspoiled location, with a focus to allow the constantly changing desert light and the backdrop of the desert landscape to inhabit the spaces and be integral to the life experiences in the home,” explains Cade Hayes, co-owner of Dust.

“Simple functional requirements for living, sleeping, and indulging in live music suggested a unique design strategy, which places an emphasis on clear separation of each function and offers desired sound isolation. When the large glass panels are fully opened, the residence evokes a boundless Ramada-like spirit, animated by ever changing desert, its light and scent.”

Exterior of Tucson home with backdrop

From a remote parking Ramada, a short walk along a narrow path through the desert reveals obscure views of the house through desert vegetation. The arrival is marked by a sequence of fractal concrete cubes that ascend toward two entries; midway up the steps a narrow slit marks the bedroom entry, while a dark square void defines the main entry.

Rammed earth walls weave through the plan, dissecting it into three zones and enclosing spaces on three sides as they imprint the home with a warm texture and massive weight. The living space, the only space open to both the north and south facades, is the heart of the house and also acts as a barrier to the music studio on its west from the bedrooms to the east.

Staircase with dappled light

The charred walls that clad the bathroom core invite touch and evoke visual references of a drought ridden desert floor.

Darkened bathroom walls

“Each programmatic function must be accessed through an exterior passage that forces an exit and encourages engagement of the desert environment. Further reinforcement of the permeability in the design is discovered as dappled light filters beneath a spiral stair that leads towards a panoramic star gazing roof deck,” adds Hayes.

Photography by Bill Timmerman


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