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Barrio Historico House, Tucson, Ariz.

Barrio Historico House, Tucson, Ariz.

  • The neatly composed street elevation barely hints at what lies within.

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    The neatly composed street elevation barely hints at what lies within.

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    Bill Timmerman Photography

    The neatly composed street elevation barely hints at what lies within.

  • The houses side courtyard is shielded from view by the building and a high garden wall.

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    The houses side courtyard is shielded from view by the building and a high garden wall.

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    Bill Timmerman Photography

    The house's side courtyard is shielded from view by the building and a high garden wall.

  • The main living space observes a visual boundary that includes the courtyard and pool.

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    The main living space observes a visual boundary that includes the courtyard and pool.

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    Bill Timmerman Photography

    The main living space observes a visual boundary that includes the courtyard and pool.

  • What appears to be a high window is, in fact, a periscope that projects a roof-top view of the Tucson Mountains onto a mirror mounted above the kitchen cabinets.

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    What appears to be a high window is, in fact, a periscope that projects a roof-top view of the Tucson Mountains onto a mirror mounted above the kitchen cabinets.

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    Bill Timmerman Photography

    What appears to be a high window is, in fact, a periscope that projects a roof-top view of the Tucson Mountains onto a mirror mounted above the kitchen cabinets.

  • Deep glass soffits cast watery reflections overhead.

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    Deep glass soffits cast watery reflections overhead.

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    Bill Timmerman Photography

    Deep glass soffits cast watery reflections overhead.

  • The master suite opens onto a more private rear courtyard.

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    The master suite opens onto a more private rear courtyard.

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    Bill Timmerman Photography

    The master suite opens onto a more private rear courtyard.

  • The master bath

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    The master bath

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    Bill Timmerman Photography

    The master bath

  • The rear courtyard

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    The rear courtyard

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    Bill Timmerman Photography

    The rear courtyard

  • The master bath, with its windowed shower, relies on the garden wall for privacy.

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    The master bath, with its windowed shower, relies on the garden wall for privacy.

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    Bill Timmerman Photography

    The master bath, with its windowed shower, relies on the garden wall for privacy.

  • The floor plan

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    The floor plan

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    Courtesy HK Associates

    The floor plan

  • This building section shows the profile of the periscope.

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    This building section shows the profile of the periscope.

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    Courtesy HK Associates

    This building section shows the profile of the periscope.

 

Passers-by in Tucson’s Barrio Historico district won’t miss a beat when they see our 2012 Custom Home of the Year, but it’s still a showstopper. Almost within arm’s reach of the sidewalk, its stucco façade follows the centuries-old pattern of the neighborhood, quietly supporting the streetscape while barely hinting at the riches that lie within. “We’ve always been interested in courtyard houses,” says architect Kathy Hancox, “and we love that about the barrio. You never quite know what’s behind the entry door; there’s that mystery.” Hancox and partner Michael Kothke played skillfully on that mystery, creating a private world whose austere tranquility is only heightened by the lively public realm just beyond its walls.

Commissioned by clients relocating from the East Coast, the house carefully filters input from the outside world, buffering the sights and sounds of the street with a suite of office and guest spaces that spans the front of the building. “That sets up the foil for this ‘wow’ moment,” Kothke explains. A short entry hall opens onto the house’s main living space, a brilliantly daylit great room that incorporates an elegantly austere side courtyard and lap pool. “Once you’re inside,” he says, “it’s about the sky and the pool and the changing light conditions.”

The control and manipulation of natural light figures prominently throughout the house. A narrow skylight washes the living area’s windowless north wall, balancing illumination from the courtyard. Deep glass soffits shelter patios at the living room and the rear-facing master bedroom, while creating soft reflections overhead. The white stucco exterior takes on the color of the sky. “At dusk, before the sky turns color, the walls almost dissolve into the sky,” Hancox says. “At other times, they can be hot pink, or they can be blue.” In a bravura move, the architects captured a rooftop vista with a periscope—yes, a periscope—that projects an image of the distant Tucson mountains onto a mirror that spans the width of the kitchen.

The house’s deft balance of traditional form and modern application, subtle detail and dramatic gesture made our jury’s deliberations an agreeable affair. “The contextual fabric really fits the street,” said one judge, “then you go inside and it just opens up. As far as regional modernism goes, it’s great.” Another called it, “amazing. You would never guess from the exterior what’s going on in there.”