Project: Big Top House
Architects: The Ranch Mine
Builder: Identity Construction
Structural Engineer: Broderick Engineering
MEP Engineer: Sequoia Trail Engineers
Landscape Architect: Kleski & Associates
City: Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Area: 3750 ft2
Photo Credits: Roehner + Ryan
After a decade of trying to adapt their lives to the confines of a house that couldn’t meet their needs, a young family purchased a vacant lot at the base of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona. The lot had a mountain view but came with a concave property line that narrowed the allowable building depth in the middle of the long lot to just 20 feet. This challenge prompted the homeowners to look for an architecture firm with the ambition to be unique and will engage the family in the creative process, ultimately leading them to The Ranch Mine, an architecture firm they had met 5 years earlier at a social entrepreneur incubator.
The design started with a large tilts up and cantilevers towards Camelback Mountain, framing views, capturing breezes, and creating a continuous link between the front porch, great room, and rear covered patio through 3 different pocketing glass doors.
This roof became known as “Big Top”, a nod to the idea that family life can often feel like a circus under one roof. The layout of the social parts of the house was designed to provide a variety of ways to view the mountain. The semi-public front porch projects out from the front of the house to grab views of the “camel head” part of the mountain, the hemlock clad ceiling of the great room tilts up to take in views of the rest of the mountain from the kitchen and dining room and 2 more pocketing glass doors open that space up to the rear covered patio that frames the same view to be enjoyed while living outdoors.
The glass doors are equipped with Gauzy, a light control glass nanotechnology that allows the glass to change from transparent to opaque for privacy and energy control. While the view was important from the start, creating spaces to congregate with friends and family was also a top priority, and fire became a linking feature. The exterior patios of the Big Top house are visually linked through fire features a steel fire pit in the front patio, a fireplace on the rear patio that is also used for cooking, and a fire pit at the far end of the property which serves as a private sanctuary off of the primary suite. Another key element of life is cooking, both for the family and for entertaining.
The Bulthaup kitchen (one homeowner formerly worked for Bulthaup) is connected to the outdoor kitchen through a custom, modern take on a dutch door. Both of these areas are adjacent to the indoor and outdoor dining areas, all with views of the mountain. On the south side of the rear covered patio, built-in benches flank the fireplace and receive light filtered through a screen customized with their family emblem, while on the west side, a detached music studio provides a place to play and record music with a hidden roof deck on top for views of the valley.
At the far end of the house, furthest away from the hustle and bustle under the Big Top, the primary suite features a private outdoor patio and a luxurious ensuite bathroom. The bathroom continues the indoor-outdoor theme of the main living areas of the Big Top house with a naturally lit shower and bathing area that opens out to an outdoor shower, screened from the nearby neighbor with a custom steel slatted wall.