Kevin Howard’s Sabino Springs House: A Chemistry of Boxes and Context

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Situated in the lower slopes of Tucson City, Arizona, lies a masterful combination of structures immersed deep in the desert, a sight to behold. This impressive structure is the work of architect Kevin Howard, embodying the symmetry of art and architecture when they merge. The homeowner, an art collector, envisioned a house that gently interacts with the earth, placed in a location with panoramic views of a barren desert and encircled by various mountain ranges. This couple, the homeowners, are unwavering devotees of minimalist philosophy and aspire for their art to thoroughly investigate the principles of minimalism.

In the Sonoran Desert, the owners wanted a building that would spark contrast to its context, in Kevin Howard’s own words, “A modern minimal home.” The location of the project required the architects to design a residential home with breath-taking views. The client’s art collection and contemporary furniture needed a home and protection from natural elements that might affect it, like sun rays, for example.

Consequent to these challenges, the architects moved the major living spaces to the upper floors leading to a smaller building footprint. This would mean a reduced construction impact on the site to further foster the owner’s reiteration of the need for the building to go easy on the desert.

Gallery spaces were designed with the necessary measures taken to ensure that the art pieces would be safe. To allow penetration of day light into the building without the sun’s rays, glass panes were adopted and recessed inside spotless shadow boxes.

An atrium houses the major gallery spaces for art with an interior stair that connects the upper and lower floors of the house acting as the tectonic showcase. The feeling of the double-height living spaces allow the users to breathe with continuous appreciation of art pieces positioned in various locations around the house. To light the atrium, a thin skylight located at the centre of the gallery is implemented, allowing light all through the day without harming the numerous paintings on display.

As you approach the residence, it feels and looks like a set of interesting glued boxes that have just landed somewhere in the desert. Upon further inspection of the boxes, you realize that the landing site wasn’t by accident. Intentionally, the building has been crafted to blend with the context as witnessed by the giant cacti (also known as Saguaros) that surround the residence. While the owners sit in the main living and dining spaces, and through the large framed window panes get a view of the desert below, they will cherish the clarity, detail and elegant way with which the residence was designed.

You also won't want to miss exploring Löyly by Avanto Architects, a striking seaside sauna located in Helsinki, Finland.

Project Information
Architects: Kevin B Howard Architects
Location: Tucson, Arizona, United States
GFA: 510 sq.m
Completed: 2016
Photography: Winquist Photography, Robin Stancliff Photography

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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