Desert Greenhouse

Desert Greenhouse


Tucson, Arizona

The Birkinbine Greenhouse is an early example of Line and Space’s philosophical approach to design of creating environmentally sensitive architecture that respects and responds to existing site conditions. 

Created as a place to grow delicate flowers such as orchids, the greenhouse creates needed coolness and moisture – qualities not readily found in the desert – by carefully responding to climate and environment. Thick west-facing stone walls protect the interior from intense afternoon sun and insulate to keep temperatures cool. Overhangs block direct sunlight from entering through expansive windows that flood the interior with needed natural daylight. 

Perched on the edge of a desert canyon, the Birkinbines and their guests enjoy the comfort and beauty of a lush tropical environment within while also viewing the splendor of an entirely different and contrasting, but equally magnificent ecosystem, spread below in a beautiful desert canyon rise to foothills beyond.

A mortar set fieldstone path links the residence with the Greenhouse.  Alongside this path, loose river stone reinforces a feeling of motion toward the structure. Turning vertically upon intersecting the building, the pattern becomes an inlaid design that greets visitors on the west-facing, sun-screening wall. Mimosa trees line either side of the path, making a transition from native desert vegetation and compressing visitors, urging them to move forward.

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