Casa Caldera by DUST is a 945 square foot shelter located on the southwestern bajada of the Canelo Hills in Southern Arizona’s San Rafael Valley. The structure emerges from the native grasses that define the hillside and open ranges beyond. To emphasize this refuge quality, the material of the structure was chosen to blend in with the environment, and the program made to close down.
The mass walls are constructed of poured lavacrete, a process and product refined by the material’s pioneer, Paul Schwam, and used in the region’s architectural community, notably by Paul Weiner and Design Build Collaborative. It is seen by locals as a new vernacular material, comprised of a mixture of red scoria, a pulverized lava rock, cement, and water that forms a self-supporting semi-fluid material which is rammed into formwork similar to rammed earth. The resulting effect was a subtle contrast to the grasses around, changing subtly to the qualities of light through the year, blends harmoniously with the landscape appearing as if it belonged there with the grass, oaks, manzanitas and rocks.