rob paulus architect, tucson, ariz.

These nine homes were conceived as idiosyncratic, low-budget specials to jump-start a mixed-use neighborhood while the architects worked on an adjacent three-year conversion of an old icehouse into lofts. Rob Paulus, AIA, put a premium on light, volume, and local artistry. He opted for inexpensive materials such as salvaged wood and metal from the icehouse demolition, and he kept the century-old adobe wall along the property edge—an earthy counterpoint to the shiny infill housing, which takes its cues from the area's light-industrial structures. A local subcontractor, Cactus Jack, helped fashion the shadowy texture of the wood courtyard fencing and the Mondrianesque metal entry gate.

Though the homes are simple boxes, they don't skimp on energy efficiency. “We spent a little more money on window and door systems —things you would touch and that would save energy,” Paulus says. Each house is oriented to its best solar advantage and is made of highly insulated wall and roof systems. The homes have been pre-plumbed for solar hot water and include rainwater-harvesting tanks. “This project is cost-effective and makes you feel good,” said one judge. “The Zen quality created something way beyond the cost.”

principal in charge / project architect / landscape architect / interior designer: Rob Paulus, AIA, Rob Paulus Architect
developers: Randi Dorman, Phil Lipman, and Warren Michaels, Fremont Partners One, LLC, Tucson, and Rob Paulus, AIA
general contractor: Charla Hickey, Caliber West, LLC, Tucson
project size: 1,557 square feet per unit
site size: 1.03 acres
construction cost: $90 per square foot
sales price: $182,000 per unit
units in project: 9
photography: Bradley Wheeler /