Concrete Masonry Builds Character in an Arizona Infill Project 
The Double,
Tucson Arizona

Ibarra Rosano Design Architects, Tucson Arizona
Masonry and General Contractor:
Repp Design + Construction, Tucson Arizona
Masonry Supplier:
Young Block Co., Tucson, Arizona

Concrete block is the protagonist of this urban desert dwelling. It was block that afforded the opportunity to fit three, solidly built, family homes comfortably on a forgotten city lot. The resulting project was once nicknamed The Trio. The efficient land use was made possible by exploiting the material’s durable strength and timeless, simple beauty. But as often happens, an out-of-step City land code stood in the way of the more contextually appropriate trio of single family houses. Eventually the design team surrendered; The Trio became The Double but the inspiration survived.

Today, two single-family homes sit proudly in Tucson’s Barrio Blue Moon, an old neighborhood between the Interstate, the downtown and the University. Comprised of narrow lots, mixed uses, eclectic neighbors, and small houses, this barrio was the ideal location for this infill project.

Welcoming guests to each house is a dramatic entry portal within which the organization of the plan is revealed. A twelve-foot (3.7 m) tall blade of steel, functioning as both stringer and guardrail,supports a folding steel stair that ascends to two bedrooms above the master suite on the left with views of the Catalina and Tucson Mountains along the way. To the right, the entry vestibule spills immediately into the living areas and gardens of the home. Inside, the sandblasted finish on the insulated block walls backdrop a family’s life activities. Concrete floors carry the kitchen’s signature red cabinetry, designed to maximize storage and utility. The dining and living spaces are made open and flexible to a variety of uses and configurations. The glass is protected by shade structures on the south and the early morning and late afternoon desert sun is kept at bay by deployable sun gates.

Through the use of simple materials, proper solar orientation, thermal mass/high insulation, and passive heating/cooling practices, the Double hopes to lead by example, offered as a possible antidote to ubiquitous sprawl.

The Double aims to demonstrate that the extraordinary spaces can be created in urban settings that truly celebrate place. Through an honest expression of the material, the design team was able to build a better structure more affordably. Deliberately exposing grey block was the technique aimed at proving that real material builds character and that character is the cornerstone of our most vibrant neighborhoods. CMD