The more upscale Amangiri Resort (2009) in Canyon Point, Utah, seems like a case study in how luxury can bloom in the most inhospitable places. Aerial views of the site resemble a cluster of nondescript buildings facing off against flat and brutal terrain—an overhead observer could be forgiven for mistaking it for a scientific outpost, rather than a 5-star property where suites can run over $4,000 a night. As Living in the Desert notes, the property’s “beauty lies in the fact that it does not try to overpower the breathtaking view but rather supports it, silently.”
The Glass Pavilion (2015), designed by Slovenian firm OFIS Arhitekti in Granada, Spain, also doesn’t attempt to compete with its mind-blowing surroundings. It’s a compact building with glass windows on all sides, and there’s little in the way of neighbors besides mountains. It was commissioned by Guardian Glass, a Michigan-based company, to act as a sort of showpiece demonstrating its sun-protective coatings. Given the realities of global warming, “the desert can be seen as a perfect experimental field to test design solutions that, in a near future, might be suitable also for…other locations, including cities,” wrote OFIS’s Rok Oman and Špela Videčnik via email.
Such open, all-glass architecture is definitely an anomaly for the desert. A more inward-facing, stark-white aesthetic often prevails, including the Deserti Tascabili DJ Complex (2017) on the Tunisian island of Djerba, created by AutonomeForme of Palermo, Italy. The complex includes both a private house and facilities for an artistic residence program. Subtle design notes help occupants deal with the challenging climate, including terracotta in the roof that operates as “a breathing membrane, fostering natural insulation,” according to the firm’s founder, Marco Scarpinato. The structure is monastic in its simplicity, with all-white walls interrupted sporadically by the narrowest of windows. It’s meant to be a place of respite, with the site providing various zones that Scarpinato thinks of as “pocket deserts,” where visitors can “find peace, and retreat from the convulsive rhythms of modernity.”