"In March 1986, a handwritten letter was delivered to celebrated American architect Kendrick Bangs Kellogg," it read. "My wife and I recently purchased a very interesting though unconventional building site in the California desert..." The mail was sent by legendary artist duo Jay and Bev Doolittle to the architect to seek his help in designing what would be a very unconventional home.
That letter was the beggining of one of the most iconic yet eccentric developments ever built in the US and perhaps the world. The house is located on the cusp of the Joshua Tree National Park, and has a footprint of 460 square metres. Kellogg was entrusted with designing every part of the house, including the architecture, the interior design and even the furnishings.
Using natural materials, such as stone and wood, the house boasts a strong and unique look that is an exploration of organic forms: its twisting curvilinear design reflects a contemporary feeling and, in keeping with its location, is surprisingly serene.
The main construction consists of five-storey-high piles that give the house the appearance of an alien spacecraft, which, at the same time, fits perfectly into its ancient landscape. Technically wall-less, the property was formed by 26 concrete columns that are sunk seven feet into the ground. Each column was fashioned out of molasses to give it a natural texture. Between the columns, there are many vantage points made from thick tempered glass that let wide stripes of light fall into the house during the day. At night, the views from the dining table or the curved leather built-in sofa in front of the copper-hooded fireplace reveal the stars that dot the vast desert sky.
With its location in an amazing desert landscape, the house appears to be crouching on the rocks; a huge animal asleep in the middle of the landscape.
"The High Desert House was born, as most great buildings are, from aesthetics to fearlessness, which the Doolittles had in excess," says Kellogg. It took more than three months for Kellogg to decided where to build the house, since the Doolittles didn't want to disturb the natural setting. The design maximises the advantages of its outdoor setting, yet inside it has the feeling of the bridge of a luxurious spaceship.
The five different levels in the house feature endless curves and most of the furniture is also part of the building itself. Every surface was crafted from natural materials, such as mahogany, as well as steel and glass tiles.
The Doolittles moved in in 2002, but sold their masterpiece in 2014. Getting older, they moved to Utah to a new home with fewer strairs and that is easier to maintain. The new owners are Matthew Jacobson, a Los-Angeles-based Facebook executive, and his wife, Kristopher Dukes, an interior designer. They live in Manhattan Beach and bought the High Desert House to preserve it as a work of art: a fate befitting such a unique structure.