This Cool Off-Grid Hidden House is Close to the US/Mexico Border

© Cade Hayes
© Cade Hayes
Photo of Charlotte Luxford
Architecture & Design Editor2 April 2017

Have you ever thought about disconnecting yourself from the chaos of the modern world and living off grid? This eco home in a remote area of the Canelo Hills in Southern Arizona’s San Rafael Valley is only 15 miles from the US/Mexico Border, yet entirely detached from society, focusing only on being at one with and part of the natural landscape.

Casa Caldera | © Cade Hayes

It’s not until you’re almost near the house, Casa Caldera, that you start to notice it – it’s disguised in a clever camouflage of ‘scoria’, a basaltic lava that emerges from the native grasses.

Casa Caldera | © Cade Hayes

The walls of the house are naturally porous, and are made from a red volcanic aggregate, which creates the structure and finish, as well as offering insulation and thermal mass.

Casa Caldera | © Cade Hayes

The recently completed property was designed by Tuscon-based architectural firm DUST. It is based around the ‘zaguan’, a kind of hallway typical in US Southwestern and Mexican homes that provides a view straight through the property, inviting guests to stop and gaze at the vast mountain ranges beyond. At either end of the zaguan are large, metal bi-fold doors that connect the internal living spaces to the surrounding landscape, while also letting in a cooling breeze when opened.

Casa Caldera’s zaguan | © Cade Hayes

The only sources of heat are a wood-burning stove and a fireplace for the cooler months. Windows were kept small and the house’s orientation was taken into consideration to ensure that direct solar gain was kept to a minimum during the summer. Water is collected from a well, while solar power is utilised for minimal electrical and appliance needs. A single 30-yard roll-off of waste was removed after the entire construction process.

Interior of Casa Caldera, showing the fireplace | © Cade Hayes

The 268.4m² (880 ft.²) house has a very simple layout, with two bedrooms and a bathroom opposite the living area, and the kitchen and zaguan running between them. This central space can be used for dining and entertaining, providing a sublime view across San Rafael Valley and the Patagonia Mountains.

An external view of the zaguan | © Cade Hayes
Casa Caldera’s wood-burning stove is a primary source of heat in the cooler months | © Cade Hayes
Natural light filters in through the windows | © Cade Hayes

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