Between Heaven And Earth: The Unique Architecture Of Joshua Tree National Park


In southern California, the sublime finds form in the vast and beautiful landscape of Joshua Tree National Park. Here, where the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet, unique natural forms find their architectural equals in homes constructed to complement their environment.

Unsurprisingly, this desert area has been coveted by artists and thinkers for decades—the homes that they have built representative of a more innovative, sculptural understanding of architecture. From artist Andrea Zittel’s ‘Wagon Station Encampment’, where visitors sleep in sci-fi pods amongst the rocky plains; to the famed ‘High Desert House’ designed by Kendrick Bang Kelloggs, which takes the appearance of a leviathan skeleton from afar, what follows are a selection of the most intriguing architectural spaces in Joshua Tree National Park and its desert surrounds.

'The Wagon Station' by Andrea Zittel

American artist Andrea Zittel, whose work focuses on sustainability and a self-sufficient life, built The Wagon Station Encampment at a campsite near Joshua Tree National Park. The pods are available to artists or thinkers who share Zittel’s desire to better understand human nature and the social construction of needs. Read the article in full here.

All images © Lance Brewer

‘High Desert House’ by Kendrick Bangs Kellogg

In 1986, a handwritten note was delivered to an architect in San Diego, it read: “Dear Mr. Kellogg, My wife and I recently purchased a very interesting, though unconventional, building site in the California desert…” Sent to famed architect Kendrick Bangs Kellogg by artists Jay and Bev Doolittle, this letter resulted in one of the most extraordinary pieces of modernist organic architecture to date—the ‘High Desert House’. Read the article in full here.

All images © Lance Gerber

'Seasonal Pavilions' by Arata Isozaki

Amongst the cactuses, rocks and ruddy earth of the Mojave Desert, fifteen kilometers from Joshua Tree National Park, stand three sculptural concrete pavilions designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki for his friend, LA art collector Jerry Sohn. Isozaki visited the property in the 1990s—and after a night spent sleeping there beneath the stars he proposed designs for a series of outdoor bedrooms. Following this evening in the desert, he noted; “the ceiling is the sky, the surrounding mountain range and rocks are the walls and partitions, and the majority of the floor is the desert.” He determined to create spaces that enhanced such an experience. Read the article in full here.

All images © Iwan Baan

‘Joshua Tree Residence’ by James Whitaker

At the request of a creative client, architect James Whitaker is able to realize a project plan he never constructed, a clustered assemblage of shipping containers situated amongst the vast landscape of California’s Joshua Tree National Park. In this series of photo-realistic renderings, Whitaker as architect, photographer and digital artist proposes the fruition of a characteristically experimental project that is currently being built. Read the article in full here.

All images © Whitaker Studio

‘Folly’ by Cohesion Studio

In the southern Californian desert, Cohesion Studio has reimagined an abandoned homestead as ‘Folly’: two off-grid, steel-clad cabins that let you sleep under the stars in Joshua Tree. The two structures—one reconstructed from a home built in 1954, and one new—stand overlooking the red earth and mountains of the desert. Read the article in full here.

All images © Sam Frost

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