For decades, students at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture have designed and built their own simple sleeping shelters at Taliesin West, the school’s Scottsdale, Arizona campus. The latest structure, designed by Chilean architect Jaime Inostroza, is a particularly elegant instantiation of Wright’s principles. The site placement, formal lines, and economy of materials make for a beautiful desert retreat.
It was a fellow student who suggested the site to Inostroza—an existing concrete pad left by a former apprentice at the edge of a tree-lined wash. With a budget of just $2,000 from the school, Inostroza set out to design and construct a raised sleeping loft as tall as the nearby trees (12 feet) where he could watch the play of light and color across the desert landscape. He named it Atalaya, which is Spanish for the crow’s nest at the top of a ship’s mast.
Inostroza expanded the shelter’s footprint by adding stone-and-concrete benches around the existing concrete pad which also serve as steps up to the loft. The redwood frame is simple and economical, roofed with clear polycarbonate panels. A series of slats running across the roof add more visual interest and a slight shading effect. Tent-like fabric walls also diffuse the light.
“This is not a house. It is not even a building,” Inostroza admitted in an interview with AZ Republic. “But from these principles, I can build a house. I can build a library. I can build anything.”