Jesús Edmundo Robles Jr and DUST Architects Win 2021 Jeff Harnar Award for Contemporary Architecture in the Southwest
DUST Architects, led by University of Arizona Assistant Professor of Practice in Architecture Jesús Robles and founding principal Cade Hayes, has been awarded the top prize by the University of New Mexico School of Architecture + Planning and the Thornburg Foundation: the 2021 Jeff Harnar Award for Contemporary Architecture in the Southwest. The firm won for its poured lava-crete, off-grid residence in Southern Arizona’s San Rafael Valley, Casa Caldera.
At Casa Caldera, which was completed in 2015, there is a “balance between an atmospheric connection to the environment and a concrete sense of security in the midst of a vast wilderness established at the core of the project,” says Robles.
The residence of just under 1,000 square feet is entirely self-sustaining. Cooling is provided by natural cross-ventilation through the zaguan and strategically placed window openings. Wood fuel sourced from the property provides heating. Water comes from a well. And solar power is used for the minimal electrical and appliance needs.
These environmental features as well as the structure’s siting elevated the project to the top of the jury’s list. “We were very impressed with the use of age-old planning techniques to create energy efficiency without reliance on high technology,” says jurist Elaine Molinar of Snøhetta. “The firm created a wonderful space that is deferential to the landscape in its simple form…. It features not only modesty but also boldness and clarity.”
The prize was given to Robles and Hayes not just because of Casa Caldera’s innovative design and unique setting, however. The jury of Molinar plus Marlon Blackwell of the University of Arkansas and Thaisa Way of Dumbarton Oaks was also asked to consider finalists in light of the firms’ commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. Specifically, the firms responded to how they would use the prize’s $10,000 award to further their equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives.
“We’ll use the monetary award to encourage professional and personal growth for our small staff,” says Robles. “We will also create a fund to cover study materials and testing fees for our unlicensed staff and cover NOMA and AIA membership fees for the entire team.”
Any remaining funds will be donated to NOMA Arizona’s John Williams Scholarship and the University of Arizona AIAS organization, “where there is a current request to help fund student memberships for need-based students,” he says.
“It is always a sacrifice when architects take time from practice to teach,” says Robert Miller, director of the School of Architecture at UArizona’s College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture. “Through teaching they themselves learn their own craft, to be sure, but it comes at a cost—and particularly for architects, such as Jesús, who give so completely and so generously to their students. Jesús teaches like he practices—all in. He is not only teaching lessons, he is passing a torch. The 2021 Jeff Harnar Award is a wonderful acknowledgement of Jesús’s dedication, passion and exemplary craft.”
The Jeff Harnar Awards program was created by Garrett Thornburg in 2007 to honor the memory of New Mexico-based architect Jeff Harnar, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 46, and to help continue his groundbreaking work in the area of contemporary design.