Buildings: The House of Earth & Light

About

The House of Earth and Light

Photo: Patrick McCue

Parking shade structure at left of walkway leading to front door, with view of workshop in the distance

The House of Earth and Light is a private home built in central Phoenix, Arizona. The plannng and building took place between 1998 and 2003. Noteably, the home was built using primarily salvage materials and on a budget. 

It's 18-inch thick walls are made of an earthen mix, which was poured into forms during the casting process. The forms were planned and shaped to include space for unseen features such as wiring and plumbling, as well as built-in architectural design elements such as bookcases, shelves and windows.  All the functional spaces, whether hidden or obvious, needed to be planned in advance and incorporated as the walls were poured in one single cast.

The House of Earth and Light was originally built with a two-layer fabric roof, per the architect's submitted plans. The top layer was a 82% perforated shade layer, and the inner layer was a Kinnear coated solid fabric.
 
Owner Patrick McCue worked to invent, compression-test, and batch-test the poured earth mix that would ultimately be used in the construction of the home. The final earthen mixture chosen for use was made to mimic the natural caliche soil of the home's desert site. Besides the hands-on construction work, Patrick also worked to research and obtain engineering approvals for the unique structure to satisfy city of Phoenix building codes.  

The extremely clean lines achieved in the construction of this residence lend a sculptural quality to the home, making it not simply a dwelling, but literally a piece of inhabitable art.

As one of the original owners, Patrick McCue contributed extensively to the design planning and fabrication of the structural elements of the home. Fabricator Terry McCue, as well as others assisting on the project, also lent countless hours of work along with their expertise as craftsmen to bring this project from blueprint to a Certificate of Occupancy. 

Today, the House of Earth and Light remains a private residence. Since being transferred from the original owner, its design has been modified, and the home no longer has a fabric roof.  The sophisticated new owners have replaced the original roof with a more traditional roof which lends itself well to the original design concept of the home.