The talented design duo’s firm Atherton, Keener landed a spot on the cover of DWELL, a drool-worthy national architecture publication. Atherton and Keener opened the door of their Meadowbrook house in downtown Phoenix for a tour and a discussion on their history and future in architecture. Their house, a cool concrete block-like structure, stands out in their neighborhood, but keeps a low(ish) profile behind tall oleander bushes.
We’re interested in working with things that are complex enough that they require a lot of planning and thought in their design,” Keener says, “but that are also not totally in our control, so that there’s an aspect of the unexpected in there somewhere.”
Atherton grew up here; Keener is from Seattle. They met while studying architecture at ASU. They love the desert and say they’re inspired by the desert sunlight.
“What we do is more a way of exploring something that can be applied to different things,” Atherton says. “If we’re working with light, we’re definitely applying it to a local context, but we’re also interested in exploring the universal aspects of light and not just its place in the desert.”
Sunlight played a big part in the design of the duo’s Meadowbrook Residence, which takes the popular architectural theory of sustainable relationship and turns it on its head with new perspectives on urban planning and energy use. Sited on an urban infill lot in Central Phoenix and set back from the street, the home is surrounded by a polypropylene shade cloth that wraps around three sides of the structure to control climate with created shade.
“Meadowbrook is a response to the desert in an urban environment,” Atherton says. “It’s about what it means to really live in the desert and what we can extract from the suburban asphalt and the city hard-scape that surrounds us.”
The idea for the screen, Atherton says, came from driving around the city, looking at other homes — all of which, Atherton says, either had their blinds drawn or had tacked-on structures shielding their windows from the heat. “We saw how people had adapted their environment to compensate where architecture had failed, and we took that idea and moved on from there.”
The designers were finalists in the New Times’ Big Brain Awards in 2010 and profiled by Robrt Pela in our Big Brain Issue.
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