James Whitaker’s Joshua Tree house will be nestled into the rocky mountainside

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In the spring of 2017 James Whitaker‘s client in LA had some friends visiting and, having a little time to spare, they all went on a road trip to visit the client’s plot of land in Joshua Tree. Whilst there, amongst the arid landscape and jutting rocks, one of the friends said, “you know what would look great here?”, before opening her laptop to show everyone a picture she’d seen on the internet. The picture was of an office that I’d designed several years ago but had never been built. And so it came to pass that the next time the client was in London he got in touch and asked to meet up.

Situated on their 10-acre plot, the Joshua tree house is nestled into the rocky mountainside close to the national park. The house is 200m2 or 2000sq. ft. with 3 ensuite bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and an exoskeleton formed out of shipping containers. Each container is orientated to maximize views across the landscape, control light entering the house or use the topography to provide privacy, depending on their individual use. A carport roofed with solar panels provides power for the Joshua Tree house.

The original project, which was shown to James’ client in the spring of 2017, was Hechingen Studio – an office that James Whitaker designed in 2010. A friend of James’ was planning to move back to southern Germany to start an advertising agency with a colleague and they needed an office for their enterprise. They had begun stacking wooden blocks on their kitchen table to plan their future office and asked him to have a look at their plans.

Now, James Whitaker grew up in Liverpool and always associate a stack of shipping containers, as they had planned for their new office, with the docks. James’s childhood was spent driving past stacks and stacks of shipping containers awaiting journeys out across the Atlantic. They’re impressive objects in their own right but a stack of them doesn’t really scream, creative-business!

So, James began thinking about an experiment that we did in school when he was a kid. According to James, you put a small grain of salt on the end of a thread of cotton and dangle it into a saline solution. Over the next few days that grain of salt acts as a catalyst and draws the salt from the solution, growing a wonderful crystal. This seemed like a good analogy for an advertising company. Sticking with the containers that my friend had started with he created a design for them that felt befitting a progressive, imaginative agency. Sadly their startup stopped before it started and the office was never built.

Construction is scheduled to start on site later this year.

Project Info

Architect: James Whitaker – Whitaker Studio
Structural Engineer: Bruce Danziger
Architect of Record: Martin Brunner
Steelwork: Giant Containers
Glazing: Panoramah
Images: Whitaker Studio

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