Pheonix Mountainside Home Makes for Luxury Dwelling

Red Rocks is a home in the endlessly sunny city of Pheonix, Arizona, USA. The architects behind it, The Ranch Mine, sought to recreate a client’s existing family home on the site.


The Ranch Mine are an award-winning husband and wife team, Cavin and Claire Costello, based in the city in which this building was created.


The Red Rocks, a 417m² project, involved stripping the original Spanish Revival Style building back to its core structure in order to fully redesign it. The floorplan was rearranged to accommodate new rooms and highlight its mountainside views. A limestone and neutral palette was used to complement the red rocks which stand behind it. Raw concrete, walnut and white give the interior a distinct, contemporary touch. The design’s open, spacious feel provides a platform for appreciation of its location’s rich, natural beauty.


We spoke with lead architect, Cavin.

THE PLUS: What kind of emotions will Red Rocks’s visitors experience?
Cavin Costello:
The first emotions visitors experience is intrigue. You come up to a heavy limestone wall with a cantilevered roof soaring above, plants spilling over it, and a pattern metal gate hinting at what’s beyond. As you go through this gate the second emotion is awe, as the view is framed out towards the mountain and city beyond. 


TP: You stripped the previous house back to its stucco box but the new one is comprised of straight lines and diagonals. Did you encounter any difficulties along the way with this?
We had difficulties in stripping the house back as the original house had some dangerous, unprofessional work done to it that we exposed in the process, such as a structural beam that was cut to run wiring, essentially leaving the wires to support a portion of the second story. Once we shored up the original structure and revealed all of the oddities of the house, it was fairly straight forward to add our more streamlined front addition. 


TP: The colour palette is quite different from the original – how did you approach it with this design?
Because of the strong presence of the red sedimentary rocks all around the house, we knew that we didn’t want to compete with that colour. We had to find a neutral palette that could absorb some of the red as the sunlight reflects off the rocks. We chose a neutral white for the stucco, not too cold, not to warm, and then painted all the steel black. The colour we added was the limestone, which we chose because it picked up on the creamy calcite veins that run through the mountain.

TP: What kind of considerations does an architect have to keep in mind when working on a project in Pheonix, Arizona?
The biggest consideration is the sun. The sun is inescapable here with over 300 sunny days a year and so it’s constantly something we are dealing with. The two factors the sun effects the most is the heat and the longevity of the materials. So on the exterior of homes we typically use materials such as stucco, steel, stone and concrete as they can hold up pretty well to the beating of the sun. As for the heat we try to shade the house in a variety of ways and create numerous outdoor shaded spaces for different times of day as the sun tracks around the house.


TP: What was the biggest creative challenge you found with this project?
The biggest creative challenge was adding the requested liveable space the clients wanted without expanding the footprint or limiting outdoor living space on the tight buildable lot. Our solution was a reworking of the interior and adding the second story addition that hovers and cantilevers above the outdoor space, providing shade as well. The second biggest challenge was how to take in the panoramic views to the southwest, but still provide shade. Our solution there was the custom bi-folding sun screens that can provide shade when needed or be folded away to take in the views.  


TP: This project serves as an exemplar for the need to create buildings which are well nuanced with their environment. What did you learn that you can tell other architects about working with this need in mind?
First of all, thank you. Secondly, our focus is always on entering a project without a predetermined goal that we want to achieve. I think sometimes we can fall into the trap of a trend or an idea we want to achieve, and ultimately this can limit the best potential for the home. The other thing we learned and continue to learn is how to constantly be studying not just our specific sites but the environment they are a part of. We try to get out and hike every weekend to spend time in nature and try to understand the nuances of our place, and ultimately how we might be able to better live with it.


TP: Was the client happy?
Very happy and they are thrilled to call it their home.
TP: Are you happy with the result?
Very happy with the end result. It’s bittersweet when a project like this finishes because we enjoyed every time we visited the property for the few years we worked on it, and now it will be rare that we go back.