A contemporary approach to an age-old material

When Rosario and Robert Halpern approached Los Angeles architects Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee to design their 2,600-square-foot home in hot, dry Marfa, Texas, one of their primary requirements was that it be made of adobe. They were devoted to the simplicity of the material and its intrinsic cooling and heating qualities. Sun-dried mud bricks are natural insulators, keeping the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. 

Because adobe is a system of stacking elements ― the Halperns used between 5,000 and 6,000 12- by 18-inch Mexican adobe bricks ― holes for windows and doors are usually small. But such limited ]openings could not do justice to the view-oriented site. To take advantage of a vista to the Davis Mountains, Johnston and Lee used steel framing to open up a portion of the north-facing walls. Glass panels set into this opening meet in a V at the living and dining area. The design maximizes the view without detracting from the adobe’s insulating properties. An adobero, or master adobe builder, lent his expertise to the construction.