A Desert Fortress Artfully Fuses Vernaculars

A clay-colored mound on the horizon with the tops of oak trees sticking out: what at first seems like a mirage, or perhaps a plateau-like natural rock formation, reveals itself to be a home designed by the architects Charlap Hyman & Herrero for a young collector near the desert art outpost that is Marfa, Texas. With its rectangular courtyard and hard geometric volumes, the house evokes the minimalist forms of Donald Judd, the man who did so much to put Marfa on the map.

The relatively small adobe-brick and stucco construction (2,700 square feet comprising two bedrooms and a small guest house), with its many runs of stairs and 24 windows that almost all face the same direction, has a compound-like appearance, recalling the monumental work of Michael Heizer, another artist for whom the desert has played a central role.

The house is more courtyard and roof deck than interior — the ratio of outdoor to indoor space is three to two — and inside the high ceilings and elongated windows seem more bourgeois Paris than desert abode. “It’s a bit like a stranded ship,” offers principal Andre Herrero by way of explanation — a surreal fortress that might be placed on any plane, and exist in any time past, present, or future.

Text by Drew Zeiba.

All images courtesy Charlap Hyman & Herrero.