Magazine article Sunset

Living with the Desert

Magazine article Sunset

Living with the Desert

Article excerpt

Suspended over its saguaro-studded slope, this dramatic new house at the base of Tucson's Santa Catalina Mountains gives the living desert star billing. With broad window walls and sweeping decks sheltered from the sun by deep overhangs, the house acts as a strategically placed nature-viewing platform.

It is what Frank Lloyd Wright might have called a natural house: "...integral to site...to environment...to the life of the inhabitants." It recently won an honor award from the Arizona chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

From the moment they first saw the 3-acre arroyo site, architect Les Wallach; his wife, Susan; and their son, Aaron, were captivated. They marveled at the saguaros, jojobas, acacia, and ironwood trees, the wide valley view, and frequent sightings of bobcat and deer.

Wallach recalls, "We knew we were not being rational, because the same arroyo that divided this habitat was also a conduit for runoff." He felt he could meet the challenge.

Topographic and aerial surveys helped determine salient site characteristics, and Wallach plotted the location of every saguaro. The site slopes from north to south, with the best views at the higher north end, nearest the road. This section of the site also had the fewest saguaros--only one was removed during construction. …

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