Flagstaff, AZ

Malapai Tower House

Project type
New Build - Single Family
Builder's Showcase Inc.
House Design
The Ranch Mine
Architect of Record
Interior Design
The Ranch Mine
Interior Decor
Landscape Design
Photo credit
Dan Ryan Studio

Deep within the largest contiguous Ponderosa pine forest in the world, and perched over a mile above sea level, a small clearing unfolds, scattered with volcanic rock. Accessible only by a lengthy, winding dirt road, the journey culminates in the presence of a 3-story rusted steel tower emerging from the evergreen expanse, signaling the haven that lies ahead. The Malapai Tower House, a recent permanent residence crafted for a family, resides in harmonious symbiosis with the lush wilderness. It serves as a conduit between civilization and the wild, uniting the comforts of home with the untamed beauty of the natural world. Strategically positioned, the house occupies a relatively flat, modest clearing to minimize tree removal, while situated on the crest of a hill to optimize visibility from the house to its surroundings. Anchored by a double-height living space, the house opens up to an elevated patio offering 180-degree views, where sightings of mountain lions, black bears, and elk are a common occurrence. The 3-story tower provides an elevated lookout, allowing occupants to marvel at snowfall on the pines, incoming storms, or to serve as a sentinel for potential forest fires in the area. The exterior design of the house seamlessly integrates with its natural surroundings. The term "Malapai" originates from the Americanization of "malpaís," translating to bad terrain in Spanish, typically referring to land characterized by eroded volcanic rock. Leveraging the rugged terrain to their advantage, the architects utilized stones collected from the site to form the foundation skirt of the house. This not only anchors the home but also hardens it against approaching embers, acting as a protective measure against forest fires. The standing seam roof color mirrors the dark pine bark, while the wood siding matches the exposed pine beneath the bark. The rusted steel siding complements the iron-rich dirt, creating a cohesive aesthetic that blends seamlessly with the environment. Inside, radiant heated concrete floors ensure warmth during cold winters, augmented by solar gain in the double-height living space and a large wood-burning fireplace. The kitchen, positioned as the heart of the home, becomes a focal point where the family enjoys cooking over fire, often preparing the bounty of their land using their Grillworks grill. A bridge spans above to access the second and third stories of the tower, also providing task lighting for the island and countertops below. A double-height window and a limestone chimney draw the eyes upward to the wood ceiling, infusing warmth into the space, complemented by the substantial wood island countertop.

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