Location: El Paso, Texas, US
Area: 5200 ft2
Architects: Hazelbaker Rush
Photography: © Casey Dunn
The severity of the slope allows the three story home to maintain a direct connection to the exterior at each level. The utilitarian spaces are on the first level with the entertaining functions of the living, kitchen, and dining on the second, and the more private bedroom and family play areas on the third level. The mountain peaks to the east delay the first rays of sun until very late in the morning. To the south the slope drops off quickly into a deep arroyo where, in the early mornings and late afternoons golden eagles and red tailed hawks ride the thermal currents up into the canyons above in search of their next meal. Often the kids wake up to see deer and rabbits grazing at the newly planted flora along the south patio, sometimes finding evidence of the local ring-tailed cat. Each night as the sun begins to dip below the horizon the sky catches fire and the outdoor living room becomes the best place to watch the sky fade from red to orange to deep indigo as the city lights of Juarez come on and illuminate the valley to the south.
Near the top of the site there is an abandoned quartz mine. The angular quartz crystals that scatter the eastern part of the site – beautiful, foreign objects among the weathered grey stones and lechuguilla – became an inspiration for the massing of the home. A traditional white lime stucco volume houses the bedrooms and private area of the family and balances on a stereotomic mass rendered in local basalt grey stone using the rubble wall style visible all around town that closely matches the surrounding environment and is so of the place that from a distance the lower floors nearly disappear and the white bedroom mass appears to float in the landscape.
Materials inside and out are inspired by or directly related to the vernacular craft of El Paso; stone masonry, smooth troweled stucco, steel work related to the railroad, and leather goods related to the cowboy history of the city. At the moments where one directly engages the building the door handles and cabinet pulls are fashioned in black steel with a small offering of leather to soften and warm the cold edges. Natural, honest, somewhat conventional materials are used in slightly unconventional ways to clearly convey a refinement of the vernacular craft.
Darci Hazelbaker and Dale Rush Architects
Darci Hazelbaker and Dale Rush formed the partnership and strong design collaboration that soon became hazelbaker rush in 2001. Although they both were still working for other architects at that moment, they found themselves long on free time and creative energy, but short on patrons and clients. So, they created small projects as an outlet for pent up creativity, be it art installations with little to no budget or landscape re-designs for friends. In 2009, after several years of “on the side” creative endeavors, they started to focus on making the work of Hazelbaker Rush a full time priority. They both share a strong passion for the act of crafting objects and spaces, while distilling the ideas behind this act to its simplest and most pure form. Modernism with a hand-crafted soul.
They arrived at this appreciation for the process of creating through very different avenues. Darci Hazelbaker spent her childhood in Indianapolis, Indiana, and studied Architecture at the University of New Mexico, graduating with honors in 2001. She spent much of her youth learning the old homemaking skills handed down from mother to daughter. Knitting, sewing, quilting all instilled a sense of resourcefulness and a do-it-yourself ethic that began to flourish and informs her work to this day. Darci continues the passing of this ethic as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Arizona where she teaches students the beauty of composition, presentation, materiality, and how a reverence in the crafting of space is a reverence for design.
Dale Rush grew up on a small homestead in rural Florida with an understanding of the built environment, a necessity when it was time to mend the fences or replace the siding on the barn. Functional knowledge of carpentry, roofing, plumbing, and the repair and maintenance of the internal combustion engine were required of his father, as well as, a pride in a job done well. He studied Architecture at Auburn University, completing his design/build thesis at the Rural Studio in 2000 under the guidance of Samuel Mockbee, gaining a reinforced sense of social responsibility and compassion as a designer and a person. This built thesis was exhibited as part of the 2002 Whitney Biennial and the subject of an award winning independent documentary released in 2003. His efforts have been published in several architectural periodicals including; Architectural Record, Architectural Review, Metropolis, as well as included in the Phaidon Atlas for Contemporary World Architecture. In 2005 he joined Rick Joy Architects becoming an integral part of the exceptional work produced from that studio in the following five years.