8 dwellings in the Joshua Tree desert

In the last thirty years, architects, landscape architects and visionaries have grappled with the idea of inhabiting the desert, a challenging place par excellence where to review one’s relationship not only with Nature but also with oneself.

According to Borges, the desert is a place in every way similar to a labyrinth in that it represents an allegory of the complexity of the world, whose intelligibility cannot be grasped through reason alone. The Joshua Tree National Park in southern California, and its surroudings, with spectacular rock formations, the red earth of the desert and the immensity of its starry skies, seems to be a great void in which it is easy to get lost if not accompanied by a consciousness – of Man and Nature – different from that which characterizes anthropized environments: here, architecture is introduced as an “intruder” who must come to terms with an almost superhuman secular balance.

Many architects have tried their hand at building dwellings in the desert: interventions that are symbiotic with the landscape (Joshua Tree Boulder House, Bonita Dome, Invisible House) or that deliberately detach themselves from the context (Rosa Muerta); that evoke disturbing zoomorphic suggestions (Kellogg Doolittle House) or abstract and ascetic volumes (Joshua Tree Residence); that interpret architecture as a sign of the territory to which the built work respectfully relates in terms of shapes and colors (Monument House, Folly). As tiny as one may feel in relation to the vastness, even psychological, of its spaces, the desert – as U2 suggested in the album The Joshua Tree – is an inexhaustible source of fascination where one can find, far from everything that the world sometimes proposes as horrible, an escape route, a freedom, a happiness in nothingness. 

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