The Xeros Residence Phoenix Modern Home

The Xeros Residence Phoenix Modern Home

An Icon in the modern architectural landscape, Xeros Residence is distinguished by its unique bold design, impeccable detailing and construction with genuine materials. Glass glazing on the other hand has also enhanced the artistic appeal of the building.

Project title::Xeros Residence
Project location:(Town/ city and country) Arizona USA
Client:Matthew + Lisa Trzebiatowski
Architectural design by:(blank studio, inc.
Energy Saving design by:Architect (blank studio, inc.)
Structural design by:The BDA Group
HVAC design by:Kunka Engineering, Inc.
Lighting design by:Architect (blank studio, inc.)
Landscape design by:Debra Burnette Landscape Design
Main Contractor:180 Degrees Design + Build
Landscape contractor:ALG Landscaping
Site Area:12,500 SF (1161 SM)
Built up area:850 SF (79 SM) – footprint of building on site
Budget:$650,000 (USD)
Cost per sq. metre/ sq. feet:$289 per SF ($3110 per SM)
Project Status:Construction Complete January 2006
Photographs:Blank Studio, Inc.

The Xeros Residence Phoenix Modern Home
Located in a unique double-lot condition in the valley of the sun, adjacent to the Phoenix North Mountain Preserve in a quiet neighborhood in the heart of North Central Phoenix, Arizona, USA, Xeros Residence is one of the most critically acclaimed residential architectural project that has earned recognition among the most prominent and elite residential projects in the world.

The project is being designed by architect Matthew Trzebiatowski of Design Studio who is also the owner of the house with the help of his wife Lisa. Design decisions are taken keeping in mind the environment condition of the project site. Matthew Trzebiatowski matched an extreme aesthetic to an extreme climate, but his sustainable moves took a gentler approach.

Called ‘Xeros’ (name derived from the Greek word for ‘Dry’) as a reminder that all solutions should be in direct response to its environment — the building has several environmentally responsible designs. The form turns an opaque face towards the intense western afternoon sun and the more exposed faces to the south and east are shielded by an external layer of woven metal shade mesh. The long, narrow lot precipitated very tall form with a petite foot print allows the maximum amount of site to be retained for vegetation. The low-water use vegetation adds to the shading effects of the screen.

Design of the Building

The Xeros Residence Phoenix Modern Home

From various angles, the Xeros Residence looks like a treehouse or a huge periscope—or both, combined.

The building part includes a two-storey lower level design studio that descends down into the earth with a single storey residence that exists above the studio that is accessed solely by an external stair. The path to the studio level requires that the guest pass behind the mesh screen and descend a short flight of stairs into an exterior, mesh-enclosed forecourt. A stainless steel water feature leads you down the steps and terminates at a reflecting pool. A 3-1/2 foot wide by 19-1/2 tall steel-framed glass door offers entry into the studio from the courtyard.

To access the residence, the visitor ascends an exterior steel staircase to an upper level balcony before entering the common room (sitting, dining, and kitchen). The visitor continues through a central gallery towards the cantilevered master suite / media room. This space is completely glazed on the north facade to enjoy the mountain preserve views. To complete the cycle of movement, a cantilevered yellow-glass framed ‘Romeo and Juliet’ balcony allows views back to the city and across the long axis of the building.

Building Materials

The primary building material used in this project is exposed steel (as structure, cladding, and shading) that is allowed to weather naturally and melt with the color of the surrounding hills. Mr. Matthew considers a totally steel house a “kind of holistic notion that works well with the parched and rocky landscape.

Glass has also found great acceptance in this project for structural glazing which give wonderful exterior views of the mountains. Glass was also used in the steel framed glass door that offers entry into the studio from courtyard.


The Xeros Residence Phoenix Modern Home
The Xeros Residence Phoenix Modern Home
The project is highly successful winning design awards and gaining an international reputation for excellence. Xeros was named a Record House by Architectural Record (2006), has been awarded Honors from the American Institute of Architects (2006), selected by World Architecture News as a finalist for Project of the Year (2007), and in 2008 has just been awarded Project of the Year by Residential Architect Magazine.

A brief discussion with Mr. Matthew G. Trzebiatowski and Lisa Trzebiatowski on this world recognized project. Excerpts…..

What is the specialty of the project which makes it unique in terms of client’s expectation?

The project needed to accommodate the private residence of the owners in addition to the public, working component of the architecture studio. The two components were to be kept separate and therefore not to share a common link between the areas.

Your design philosophy in approaching the project and how was this implemented?

Xeros is a Greek word meaning ‘dry’ so the name of the project itself, the Xeros Residence, is a reminder that all design decisions should be made with regards to how the project is to integrate with it’s place (neighbourhood or climate region). Blank studio’s design philosophy is inclusive and seeks solutions from a wide arena of influence (arts, sciences, etc – not solely from architecture).

What criteria are being used to define the various spaces in response to the clients brief?

There is a clear separation of private (residence) and public (architectural studio). The residential portion is lofted into the air above the studio below – the visitor ascends an external stair to the residence passing through the common spaces (dining, sitting, kitchen) to the private spaces (bathroom, master bedroom) that are positioned to enjoy sweeping panoramic views of the mountain preserve to the north of the residence. To enter the studio, one passes behind the steel mesh, descend down into an external courtyard then into the studio space through a 3.5’ wide x 19.5’ tall door. A mezzanine level exists in the high vaulted space of the studio.

The Xeros Residence Phoenix Modern Home

What makes the building eco-friendly?

Site Decisions –
selected an infill site near to existing community resources, transportation infrastructure and green spaces; utilized a minimal building footprint and developed greater than ¾ of the site as a green space with permeable landscape; added no hardscape; used no turf and planted low-water use trees to shade the structure and the site and to control potential erosion; used no toxic pest control methods.

Water Efficiency – selected dual flush, low-water use toilets.

Materials and Resources – materials that are traditionally used for utilitarian purposes such as building sheathing or concrete formwork are used in aesthetic applications (oriented strand board and euroform board); these materials are used in their original size module to minimize waste; no tropical hardwoods were used; all materials selected for low VOC content.

Energy and Atmosphere – the building is designed as a well-insulated, light-weight envelope; mass construction (that absorbs heat and re-radiates throughout the night) is not used above ground (insulated by earth); the overall size of the home is smaller that the national average.

Innovation and Design Process – external shade system is employed to modulate daylight and keep the radiant heat energy out of the building; mindful placement of fenestration keeps heat out of the building during the late afternoon (period of greatest heat gain)

What steps are taken in the design to incorporate passive energy-saving features? Please provide as much information as possible.

The biggest challenge in an arid climate such as this is to admit light where desired, modulate it as necessary and keep the radiant heat energy out of the building. This project employed a hanging, exterior woven steel wire mesh on the east, south and west facades to shield the building from the sun. Ample daylight exists in a shallow floor plan that eliminates the need for artificial illumination at any point during the daytime.

What technology is used to further the building design?

“Low-technology” solutions are employed in the residence such as basic exterior sun shading screens and careful placement of fenestration.

What is the structural design philosophy of the building?

The building is constructed of a steel frame with insulated lightweight steel frame infill. The structure does not employ mass anywhere above ground where heat gain and re-radiation can occur.

What exceptional materials are used?

The Xeros Residence Phoenix Modern Home
The ‘exceptional’ materials are the commonplace materials that were utilized in a unique way for their aesthetic value. Materials such as concrete, oriented strand board, euroboard, woven wire steel mesh are materials that are not usually used for ‘finish’ materials– here they find expression and bring beauty. Aesthetically, the steel structure, corrugated steel wall cladding and the woven wire steel mesh are all not protected and allowed to patina naturally – the rusting tones of the steel meld with the surrounding exposed rock hillsides of the neighborhood.

How is the building skin detailed to deal with the weather and saving of energy?

Because of the ‘heat island’ or ‘heat sink’ generated by the mass of the buildings, roads, etc in the Phoenix valley the most important solution in the skin / enclosure system is the lack of material mass. Mass construction is necessary below ground but is insulated by the surrounding earth and is not exposed to the sun or ambient hot air.

What makes this building smart / avant guard in its standing?

The simplicity of the architecture and the manifested application of environmentally–conscious solutions makes this a project worthy of acclaim and study.

Any innovative solutions?

Natural ventilation is available in the residence and the studio spaces but the HVAC systems are relatively conventional. The exterior shading solution is the highest innovation.

How is the landscape integrated into the project?

Landscape and building are holistically intertwined. Plantings were selected for low-water use and drought + heat tolerance and positioned adjacent to the building to provide an additional layer of shading (along with the woven wire mesh enclosure). The site has no hardscape – this allows for water to permeate into the soil and reduce runoff erosion and eliminate heat storage.

The Xeros Residence Phoenix Modern Home

MGS Architecture November December 2008


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