US studio The Ranch Mine has completed a house in Arizona clad in wood and weathering steel that includes a tall volume that can “serve as a sentinel for potential forest fires”.
Called Malapai Tower House, the family residence is set within a ponderosa pine forest in northern Arizona, near the mountain town of Flagstaff.
A goal for the design team was to create a home that achieves “harmonious symbiosis with the lush wilderness.
It serves as a conduit between civilization and the wild, uniting the comforts of home with the untamed beauty of the natural world,” said The Ranch Mine, which is based in Phoenix.
Accessed via a long and windy dirt road, the home is perched on a hillcrest and rests within a flat clearing dotted with volcanic rock.
The project’s name, Malapai Tower House, is derived from the Spanish term “malpaís”, which loosely means bad terrain and often refers to land with eroded volcanic rock.
Roughly L-shaped in plan, the home consists of several gabled volumes and a rectangular tower.
The tall volume has a dominating presence and is the first part of the home to become visible upon approach. Within the tower, occupants can survey the terrain.
“The three-storey tower provides an elevated lookout, allowing occupants to marvel at snowfall on the pines or incoming storms, or to serve as a sentinel for potential forest fires in the area,” the team said.
For the exterior cladding, the team used materials meant to blend with the surroundings.
The tower is clad in weathering steel, its orange colour meant to complement the area’s iron-rich soil and create a “cohesive aesthetic”.
The lower volumes are wrapped in tongue-and-groove wooden boards.
The roof is covered in standing-steam metal in a hue that mirrors pine bark, and the base of the dwelling is lined with local stones.
“Leveraging the rugged terrain to their advantage, the architects utilised stones collected from the site to form the foundation skirt of the house,” the team said.
“This not only anchors the home but also hardens it against approaching embers, acting as a protective measure against forest fires.”
Within the 5,356-square-foot (498-square-metre) house, one finds spacious rooms and a mix of earthy and industrial materials.
The ground level holds a mix of private and public spaces, including a great room, primary bedroom suite, office, garage and hunting preparation area.
The second floor includes two kids bedrooms, an area for doing puzzles and a gym. The third floor, located just inside the tower, is a wellness space.
A focal point is the kitchen, where the family enjoys preparing and sharing meals. The space features a large island with a walnut countertop and a wood-fired grill with a limestone-clad chimney.
“The kitchen, positioned as the heart of the home, becomes a focal point where the family enjoys cooking over fire, often preparing the bounty of their land using their Grillworks grill,” the team said.
The adjoining living room has a wood-burning fireplace with a raw steel surround. The hearth provides warmth on cold days, in addition to radiant concrete floors.
The upper levels are reached by a staircase made of raw steel and reclaimed wood. A bridge stretches over the kitchen and connects to the tower.
The double-height living room opens onto an elevated patio with sweeping views, where the owners might spot wildlife such as black bears and elk.
Founded in 2010, The Ranch Mine has completed a range of projects in Arizona and beyond, including a Phoenix residence with breeze-block walls and a roof cutout for a palm tree and a black house in Flagstaff that appears to “burst vertically from the ground”.
The photography is by Dan Ryan Studio.
Architect: The Ranch Mine
Builder: Builder’s Showcase Inc