It’s the time of year when I find myself thinking about warmer climates. Recently, Phoenix-area architect Eddie Jones and his brother Neal Jones were honored with the titles of FAIA, or Fellows of the American Institute of Architects, recognizing their outstanding contributions to the field of architecture. These photos were taken almost 25 years ago of a home Eddie built for himself and wife Lisa Johnson. It showcases the sustainable approaches he had been experimenting with the previous decade that are integral to the design, a design where he had the additional freedom of being his own client.
With his roots in organic architecture (ie. Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruce Goff), the place and building site are the best places to begin understanding the approach to the home’s design. The home sits at the edge of South Mountain Park in Ahwatukee, near Phoenix amid the harshly dry and perennially prickly Sonoran Desert on the last high road of a subdivision with the Ahwatukee chlorination tank just behind it. You can see two solid rammed earth walls run roughly parallel. They hide the views of the tank and the adjacent homes. On top is a butterfly roof resting a bit skewed from aligning to the walls, and the cylindrical forms of the neighboring tank repeat in the home design.
All photos by Scot Zimmerman
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Jones calls the pedestrian approach from the street the entry sequence. It introduces the cylindrical forms in the steps and the rammed earth and masonry blocks that will appear in the home’s walls, as well as the natural desert landscaping that blends to the natural surroundings. The sequence is like a slow musical introduction to the home as one walks to the front door.
Arriving at the broad wooden pivot door, the outdoor entrance offers its own experience with the circular black concrete pad surrounded by sparkly cullet glass that gives the sense of a water feature without wasting any water. Above the door is a smokey piece of glass that flanges out like the fin of an iguana or other desert reptile. The cracks in the rammed earth suggest the element of time and erosion so evident in the desert.
Before we go inside the home, I want to walk you around the exterior. The roof is angled to a point where is eases into the sky. The gap between the roof and the rammed earth wall is glassed in to allow patterns of light and shadow inside. To the right is the cylinder, the same shape as the storage tank behind.
Rain fed by the V-shaped joinery of the butterfly roof is directed to the metal scupper, down the chain and to the holding tank beneath the rock garden, creating a sculptural element out of water-wise infrastructure.
Now, entering the home, the subdued light in the entrance creates the experience of cool shelter from the desert, like entering a Puebloan kiva or a cave.
An open living area occupies the main floor. An office is above, and the glass bridge walkway is seen to the left, a design where a skylight above shines through the glass of the walkway to bring natural light into the room. Lisa Johnson shows her skill with interior design in the furnishings and selections throughout the home.
The northeast side of the home is 40 feet of floor-to-ceiling glass looking up to the mountain view.
The corner by the piano shows how the design plays with uniting the inside and outside: the rammed earth wall continues outside past the glass, and the planter, filled with blue cullet glass similarly continues under and beyond the glass.
Here is a glimpse of the upstairs level. To orient you, the wooden stairs, shaped like surfboards, are to the right. The glass walkway, illuminated by the skylight above leads past Jones’s office.
As the sun sets, the glassed end of the home is reflected by the water in a metal stock tank, a beautiful reflection pool.
It is interesting to see a home that I shot 25 years ago on film. I appreciate the depth film gives to the images, but digital photography would have offered me so much more freedom. Because of the ability to layer images, with digital I can look out the windows as I show the interiors. This is especially important with homes whose design goal is to merge the outside and the interiors as a united whole, as with this home. I understand from talking to Eddie Jones that the natural desert landscape has matured and further unites the home with the site. I am sure it is spectacular.
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