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Local Architect’s New Book is a Love Letter to Desert Modernist Design

A collaboration between some of the most celebrated design professionals in the Southwest, the STRATA home is a testament to desert modern architecture and design. To truly capture the hard work and brilliance that went into creating the family compound, the architects at Drewett Works have memorialized the project in a new book. Filled with awe-inspiring photography and accounts from the professionals on the home’s design process, “STRATA: a desert dwelling” is sure to captivate design lovers.

We talk with C.P. Drewett, president and founding architect at Drewett Works Architecture, about his experience working on the STRATA home and how the project found itself as the subject of a new book.

Q&A With Architect C.P. Drewett

The STRATA home is spectacular—when did it occur that it should be the subject of a book?

It’s an unknown until you break ground on a project like STRATA. But once we did break ground, and it became reality, there was a moment where we all thought this would be a project that would merit memorializing not only the completed house but also the process. We realized this was one of those projects with enough body to fill a book, and we made a point, especially during construction, to document its progress.

Can you tell me a bit about the STRATA house and what makes it such a hallmark of desert modernism?

I think it pays homage to our climate and environment through its materiality and forms. The material palette is indigenous and in sync with the surroundings. The home looks like it almost grew out of the earth. Many of the walls are built with SIREWALL, an insulated, engineered sandstone wall with the strength of concrete—so basically, they consist of the earth. And there’s a lot of ferrous iron in our soil that presents itself in rusty colors and rusty notes, so the use of steel made sense. And although Douglas fir is not indigenous, the colors make it feel so. It’s like a sunset. And the yellows and burnt oranges and brown notes, all of it feels very at home.

In terms of the forms of the house, they are simple with deep overhangs that sort of protect the house from the sun. STRATA looks very much at peace in the desert.

The house was a collaboration between Desert Star Construction and David Michael Miller—was the book also a collaboration of this team?

It was a labor of love on all of our parts. We wanted each major party to have their story told and their efforts celebrated, yet there is uniformity. There’s an individualistic nature to each chapter (it’s broken down into three parts: architecture, interior design, construction), but it still has a common thread.

Also, my son Langdon (architect-in-training at Drewett Works) really hemmed all of this together. He curated each image, cropped and formatted them for every page, and helped me with a lot of the writing.

Included in the book is an essay by architectural journalist James Moore McCown about the home’s historical context. How do you perceive the historical context of the project?

When I was designing the house, I wanted it to have a historical context to it. When I look at my modernist heroes and those that have inspired me—Mies van der Rohe in particular—I worked to deploy a lot of the tactics that they have been celebrated for. In this case, I took a simplistic approach to the design using simple forms and a small palette of materials and colors.

Who is the main audience for this book?

I know more people who are lovers of architecture than not. I just really think it’s a book for landscape lovers, desert lovers and people who appreciate design and architecture. I think there’s a bit of an architect in all of us.

“STRATA a desert dwelling” can be purchased here.

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