Residential architects and designers from across the country grabbed a boxed lunch and climbed aboard buses for the popular housing tour that kicks off Reinvention each year. Five homeowners—two of them owner/architects—graciously swung, slid, or pivoted open their doors to more than 200 people who were all eager to see some of the finest examples of residential architecture in the Phoenix area. The architects or project architects responsible for the five gorgeous houses took a day off to share their visions with their peers, the residential architect staff, and representatives from Knauf Insulation, who sponsored the tour.

Dialogue House
Wendell Burnette Architects, Phoenix

Wendell Burnette, AIA, greeted everyone and gave an overview of his design concept for the house, which was his first commission when he formed his own practice. He explained that the built version we were seeing is actually the second design for the site because the clients originally asked for a more elaborate program that ended up being beyond their budget. This simplified plan sets up a visual and physical dialogue between two volumes—house and pool—standing parallel to one another at opposite edges of the large corner lot. According to Burnette, the mountain range beyond the downtown skyline becomes the conceptual edge of the site. Floor-to-ceiling glass along the view wall of elevated living spaces encompasses those distant vistas. A lofted master bedroom sitting along the back wall also enjoys panoramic sightlines. Walking downhill from the main house, the pool volume provides a completely different experience once inside its concrete block enclosure that obstructs all views except open sky. The interior walls are plastered bright white with exactly half of the enclosed box filled by the pool producing a whimsical play of light, water, and shadows. Putting the walled pool at the street creates a resort feel, Burnette explains, adding that “it’s very private, and then coming back up you experience the floating box of the house.”

Xeros Residence
blankstudio architecture, Phoenix

Matthew G. Trzebiatowski, AIA, founder of blankstudio, designed this live/work building as his personal residence and studio. The project was named Project of the Year in the 2008 ra Design Awards. Trzebiatowski first explained the layout to attendees before starting the tour by showing us the partially below-grade workspace featuring a 19-foot-tall steel pivot door. Living spaces are above with the only connection being an exterior stair, which Trzebiatowski says allows him leave work behind when he makes the quick commute home. He named the project Xeros after the Greek term for “dry” in homage to his design created in response to the desert environment. A major aspect of the design is the primary building material—steel. Used as structure, skin, and shading, the unfinished steel will continue to weather until it eventually achieves a soft brown patina that will blend with the surrounding landscape. Other design attributes in response to the environment include a nearly solid westward-facing elevation, large glass exposures to the south and east shaded by a two-story steel mesh screen, and a long, narrow footprint that leaves abundant planting space for low-irrigation vegetation that also contributes to shading interior and exterior spaces. A vivid chartreuse Juliet balcony off the master bedroom garnered a lot of attention from attendees, as did the pop-out vanity enclosed in blue glass with a peek-a-boo cutout to the studio below.

Cedar Street Residence
colab studio, Tempe, Ariz.

The Cedar Street Residence, the other architect-designed and -owned live/work project on our tour, is a twice remodeled single-story house built around an open-air courtyard. Matthew Salenger and Maria Salenger, AIA, completed this second incarnation of their 1954 bungalow about a year ago and earned a 2011 Grand award in the renovation category for their efforts. Matt was on hand to guide the tour. The new addition contains a kitchen/dining/living room separated from the firm’s studio by a wall-sized piece of millwork on wheels that moves to accommodate large events. This live/work volume stands directly across the yard from the original house, which now contains bedrooms featuring rolling wardrobes for flexible sleep spaces to accommodate a growing family. Surrounding the grassy courtyard, translucent walls create privacy and allow for a light-filled space. Raised walkways connect the two structures and culminate in a full-width deck for the addition. A motorized sunshade protects the deck and the glass-walled great room/studio. Matt talked about the challenges of renovating and adding on to their home. In addition to a tight budget, he said balancing their artistic vision with practical resale considerations was a big hurdle. The couple ended up sending out a survey to area home buyers asking them to name the feature they most desired when looking for a house. “The three most popular answers were a great room, courtyard, and flex space,” he says, “so we included all three.”

Lacey Residence
Jones Studio, Phoenix

This inhabited but not-quite-finished residence is a great example showcasing a panel topic—the architect/builder relationship. Designed by Jones Studio, the home was built by the firm’s longtime collaborators, The Construction Zone. Representatives from each firm answered questions about the house and the well-honed relationship they share. That teamwork allows for more creativity and freedom to experiment on both the design and construction sides of the process. At the Lacey Residence, that creativity is showcased in the unfinished Douglas fir slats applied as a vertical rainscreen left to warp and weather over time, as well as skillfully built rammed earth walls that cant outward at tricky angles. Segments of rusted steel rebar placed in a crisscross pattern produce a distinctive fence and highlight another example of how well the architect and the builder worked together on this project to solve quotidian programs with innovative results.

Hill/Shepard Residence
Will Bruder Architects, Phoenix

Arizona design icon Will Bruder, AIA, met attendees in the driveway of one of his favorite projects, the Hill/Shepard Residence. “If I’d done one house only, I’d want it to be this one,” Bruder proclaims. “It’s a perfect balance of pragmatism and poetry.” The clients—now Bruder’s longtime friends—are avid collectors, so he describes the sculptural house as “an armature for life” that was designed to accommodate their varied artworks and penchant for entertaining. Carved into the rocky hillside site rather than perched on top like most of its neighbors, the house climbs from the subterranean garage to a rooftop observation deck with prime views of Squaw Peak. A labyrinthine layout offers myriad spaces that can be used for activities of all types and groups of all sizes. Indoor/outdoor circulation patterns prevent traffic jams and generate exterior living options. Bruder selected corrugated steel as cladding, explaining that the undulations reflect the home’s connection to both earth and sky.