described as a ‘long pavilion for living’, the hidden valley desert house by wendell burnette architects is composed of a canopy hovering above a plinth in arizona, US. the residence is designed according to the owners’ very specific way of living, both as a means to simplify their life, and as an indoor/outdoor space that can house their two birds and cat. with great views over the phoenix valley and the surrounding mountains, the south-facing house emerges from a cactus-studded hill, on a ground-based plinth, which roughly follows the east to west contours of the site. a large shade canopy hovers above the plinth, embodying the necessary sustenance for this shelter as a home.

wendell burnette architects' arizona desert house expands between a plinth and a canopy
all images by bill timmerman



the arizona-based practice has kept a 1:2 ratio between outdoor and indoor programmed areas, where all activity occurs upon the plinth and under the canopy as one continuous space. supported by a dispersed core of mass forms that minimize glass to wall percentage while framing focused views for a range of indoor/outdoor programs, the thickened canopy harvests the majority of the energy and water needed for this close to net zero house. the west end/lower level of the plinth is inhabited as a thick cave, while the main level/top of the plinth is open in all directions and, at times, has no discernible distinctions between inside and outside.

wendell burnette architects' arizona desert house expands between a plinth and a canopy



the residence’s materiality allows it to blend within its surroundings without losing its distinct character. the plinth is made of a hybrid economic construction that combines stepped local concrete masonry walls with an integrally colored concrete slab rendered monolithic with a verati-like plaster. on the upper part of the canopy, a deep mill finish stainless steel fascia mirrors the landscape and sky while screening the photovoltaic solar panels beyond. a black theatrical fabric creates a continuous feeling of soft shade on the canopy’s inside and outside areas, and subtly screens the conventional gang-nail wood truss roof structure and insulation above. the central and dispersed cores are finished with similar ‘shadow reflective materials’ of cold-rolled mill finish steel, ebonized sustainable MDF (medite), three different dark finishes of highly sustainable resin-infused paper (richlite), as well as an integral color purple-black wabi-sabi stucco with vermiculite. 


wendell burnette architects' arizona desert house expands between a plinth and a canopy

wendell burnette architects' arizona desert house expands between a plinth and a canopy

wendell burnette architects' arizona desert house expands between a plinth and a canopy




project info:



name: hidden valley desert house

client: kim and keith meredith

project size: 2,500 gsf (conditioned)+1,250 sf (shaded outdoor space)+625 sf (garage/storage)

project location: cave creek, arizona, USA

project team: wendell burnette (principal-in-charge-of-design), qianyi ye (project lead collaborator),
austin nikkel, rebecca gillogly

consultants: rudow + berry, inc. (structural engineer); otterbein engineering (mechanical / plumbing engineer); woodward engineering (electrical engineer); creative design in lighting (lighting design); sse (civil engineer); wendell burnette architects (interior design)

general contractor: verge design build – joby dutton, mike alexander

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