A Desert Oasis by assemblageSTUDIO

Architecture, Envelope, West
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
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tresARCA's facade reflects the colors and textures of its desert environment. (Bill Timmerman)

tresARCA’s facade reflects the colors and textures of its desert environment. (Bill Timmerman)

Capped by a protective steel mesh screen, tresARCA house is built for indoor/outdoor living.

There are two ways to live with Las Vegas’ harsh climate. The first, epitomized by the hermetically-sealed tract houses ringing the Strip, rejects the reality of the desert in favor of air conditioning and architecture evoking far-off places. The second strategy embraces the environment for what it is, and looks to the natural world for cues about how to adapt. In their tresARCA house, assemblageSTUDIO took the latter approach. Glass and granite punctuated by a folded steel screen surrounding the second-floor bedrooms, tresARCA’s facade is a meditation on the resilience of the desert landscape.

The nearby Red Rock Mountains inspired the screen's geometric folds. (Zack Hussain)

The nearby Red Rock Mountains inspired the screen’s geometric folds. (Zack Hussain)

“The mesh screen idea came from looking at various shadow patterns in the desert and the idea of the cracked desert floor,” said principal Eric Strain. On a practical level, the screen catches heat before it reaches the bedrooms, allowing daylight to filter in without raising the interior temperature. Aesthetically, “the idea was that the home sits at the base of the Red Rock Mountains, the background scenery is the stratification and the layering of the Red Rock Mountains,” said Strain. “To not copy, but [to] suggest that layering is where the folding nature [of the screen] came from.”

The screen allows daylight in, but keeps excess heat out. (Zack Hussain)

The screen allows daylight in, but keeps excess heat out. (Zack Hussain)

JD Stairs fabricated the screen using mesh from The Western Group. The company, which provided the home’s other non-structural steel components, including fencing and the vault-like front door, was tapped for the job partway through the design process. Having never built something of this scale, they staged several full-scale mockups, at one point renting a parking lot to lay out the entire structure.

Steel pipes suspend the screen an average of 18 inches away from the bedroom walls. (Courtesy assemblageSTUDIO)

Steel pipes suspend the screen an average of 18 inches away from the bedroom walls. (Courtesy assemblageSTUDIO)

  • Facade Manufacturer JD Stairs, The Western Group, Tuscany Collection, Fleetwood Windows & Doors, Sawbuck Design
  • Architects assemblageSTUDIO
  • Location Las Vegas
  • Date of Completion 2011
  • System folded steel mesh floating screen, granite, retractable glass doors

The screen floats an average of 1 foot 6 inches away from the bedroom walls. At each of the screen’s nodes—points where multiple panels intersect—adjacent panels are bolted in pairs around 3/8-inch plate steel fins, which in turn are connected to 3 ½-inch-diameter steel pipes extending from the wall. The result, in which triangular panels of mesh fit together to form diamond-pointed projections of varying sizes, resembles an abstracted rock outcropping, a geometric transition between earth and sky.

The remainder of the facade is clad in granite, by Tuscany Collection, and glass, by Fleetwood Windows & Doors and Sawbuck Design. Fully retractable doors open all of tresARCA’s public spaces to the outdoors, where the house’s blocky massing creates protective crevices of shade and cool air. The language of layering and natural textures extends from the exterior to the interior walls, which feature blackened steel panels and Shou Sugi wood, among other materials.

tresARCA’s challenge to the conventional division between indoors and out is particularly potent in the Nevada desert. Where others see a choice between sealing themselves inside or moving somewhere else, assemblageSTUDIO sought a third way, said Strain. “We tried to convince people that you can live outside in Las Vegas when it’s still 110.”

The house's public spaces open to the outdoors. (Bill Timmerman)

The house’s public spaces open to the outdoors. (Bill Timmerman)

One Response to “A Desert Oasis by assemblageSTUDIO”

  1. Reuben Freed says:

    You write: ” On a practical level, the screen catches heat before it reaches the bedrooms, allowing daylight to filter in without raising the interior temperature. ” Was any thermal testing done to validate this statement? What is the scientific basis to this effect?

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