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Casa Caldera

The Casa Caldera was designed by the DUST architects. The tiny house known as Casa Caldera doesn’t provide the easy escape of a typical vacation getaway. This 1,060-square-foot, off-the-grid retreat does deliver are stunning views. It is located just a couple of miles North of the United States-Mexico border and is almost completely hidden from view.

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© Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

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© Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

The site is located 2 hrs southeast of Tucson, AZ, a few miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Sitting at about 5000′-0″ above sea level, the project is nestled on a slope among southern Arizona oaks and manzanitas, east of the San Rafael Valley at the Canelo Hills bajada. Much of the area was formed by volcanic activity during the Jurassic-Triassic periods over 170 million years ago. Its watershed ties into the headwaters of the Santa Cruz River, which starts its flow south into Mexico, and hooks back north to the Gila River Valley near Phoenix.

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© Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

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© AJ Brown Imaging

“The openings are small. We didn’t go for the architectural move of a skylight,” says Robles. “And we resisted any temptation to make design decisions just for an aesthetic. Everything is rooted to function.” Still, a west-facing corner window, positioned to bring in plenty of daylight, frames a mountainous panorama. Adjacent young trees will prevent glare when they are fully grown. To water them, DUST devised a central gutter for the standing seam metal roof that directs rainwater down through the building and out toward their roots. The house is fed by a natural well, but irrigation in this semi-arid clime can be an issue, so even the septic system was configured to filter cleansed water into the rocky soil around saplings.

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© Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

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© Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

The interior is split into three zones, about 270 square feet each. The 10-foot-wide zaguán is bordered by enclosed public and private wings and opens onto a west-facing concrete patio, a place to enjoy the amazing sunsets. Wood is the primary heat source: a fireplace for the kitchen/ dining/living room and a wood stove for the bed and bath area opposite, while a ceiling fan, transoms, and operable kicks (on a glass wall between the living and zaguán spaces) circulate the air.

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The owner looks forward to spending months at a time at Casa Caldera. “My dream is to be there for several months in the fall. I can forget about the rest of the world, but it is only an hour and 40 minutes to an international airport,” he says. “It’s pretty special.”

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© AJ Brown Imaging

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© AJ Brown Imaging


A small 765 sq. ft. completely off the grid home made of scoria walls for a vintner in a remote area of the San Rafael Valley, southern Arizona. The home is separated into three zones, living, sleeping and outdoor living. The outdoor living space, also called the zaguan, separates the two zones while extending the living space to a protected area that harnesses the prevailing breezes into the living spaces. Two large doors on both sides of the zaguan help control sun and wind as well as providing security, when the owner leaves for long periods of time the house will be able to completely lock down securely. Scoria is a pulverized lava aggregate.

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© Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

“We see life as an act of great potential. Through architecture and art, it is possible to create spaces that can add a sense of graciousness to everyday life, to create certain moments of wonder or joy that reveal a silence amidst all the noise. Through this exploratory process, we challenge values, seek the virtuous, and engage the senses to the environment around us. We measure the integrity of our work by the quiet pleasures and experiences that are enjoyed by all those who encounter it.”

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© Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

Project Data:

Project name: Casa Caldera
Location: San Rafael Valley, Arizona, United States
Coordinates: 31.464101, -110.558516

  • Type By Characteristic: Green & Sustainable House, Holiday House
  • Type By Site: Desert House
  • Type By Size:  Small House – (51 sqm – 200 sqm)
  • Type By Materials: Concrete House

Project Area: 1,060 sq.ft / 95 sqm
Status: Built
Completion Year: December 2015


  • 2016 – WAN Awards – Category: House of the Year – Winner

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Peter Toot
Architects: DUST – Tucson, Arizona, United States
Project Team: Cade Hayes, Jesús Robles
Carpentry: Jay Ritchey
Concrete and Masonry: Agustin Valdez
Structural Engineer: David Gibbens
Scoria: Lava Works Concrete – Paul Schwam
Electrical: Eternity Electricity
Text Description: © Courtesy of DUST, architecturalrecord
Images: © DUST, Jeff Goldberg/ESTO, AJ Brown Imaging

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Casa Caldera / DUST
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