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This phoenix house turns inward to shield itself.

This Phoenix house turns inward to shield itsefl A fortress oasis might be an apt description for this striking Phoenix house, Architect-owner Richard Fairbourrn describes it as a geode (a rock with a crystallined cavity in the center). Impervious on the outside, the house turns inward to shield itself--from both an inhospitable climate and a view of its neighbors.

Surrounded by "traditional" houses, this one may seen something of an odd sight, with blue-green hoops climbing across the courtyard between its two parts. But its design follows rules for building here that conventional houses too often ignore.

Stone, steel, and glass are materials that hold up well in the desert. Locally manufactured concrete blocks pick up the color of the surrounding desert; walls were sandblasted to amplify color and texture. Glass walls face each other across the courtyard pool--hence the geode analogy. Glass sits well under deep sun-control overhangs. The hoops frame the composition, pulling the sky down to become part of the highly controlled view.

The cool courtyard is all but filled with pool. Centered at the ened opposite the entry gate, a green-tiled spa sits in a raised diagonal wall that spans the head of the pool. Recirculating water spills over the raised wall into the pool for an aural addition to the courtyard. A Chileans mesquite (Prosopis chilensis) overhangs one corner of the pool; fern-of-the-desert (Lysiloma thornber), bird of paradise, and Myoporum parvifolium fill the beds between the studio and the pool.

Indoors, soft plantings, water, and highly textured masonry give way to granite floors, redwood ceilings, and the lacquered surfaces of half-height room dividers. Steel structural elements are painted the same blue-green as the hoops. The steel and masonry "framing" permits long structural spans that keep the combination kitchen-dining-living room open clear into the courtyard; this openness is interrupted only by the sections of glass wall (each with a sliding door).

The 1,800-square-foot main pavilion also houses the master suite and another bedroom and bath. A 275-square-foot studio-garage tucks into the other pavilion.
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Date:May 1, 1991
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