Jake Pickard was young when in 1980 his parents purchased a 1.25-acre irrigated lot on a county island in Peoria.
Shortly after purchasing the lot, Larry and Pam Pickard met architect James Scalise, a Frank Lloyd Wright disciple, through a friend. Impressed by his vision and architectural pedigree, the Pickards hired Scalise to design their dream home.
Scalise is a practicing architect at JWSA Studio in Scottsdale and has held positions as an assistant dean of the College of Architecture at Arizona State University and as an associate dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.
Following 20 or so conceptual changes to an earth-integrated design as well as a sun study analysis to determine optimum location on the property to take advantage of sun, air and light, construction on the Pickard house began in 1982.
For four years of weekends, after-school hours and summers, Jake and his sister Heather were assigned chores at the work site. It was not uncommon for the family to pull all-nighters following their day jobs to meet punch lists prior to building permit inspections.
The Pickard family moved into their earth-blended, 2,500-square-foot house the weekend of July 4, 1986.
Years later, Jake met his wife, Colette, on a blind date. They married in 2002.
Twelve years and two children later, they took ownership of the Peoria house from Jake’s parents and moved in on a hot July weekend in 2014.
The Pickard home is stunning from the road. It is situated at a slight angle from the street, unlike any other in the established neighborhood, taking full advantage of feedback from the sun study decades before.
The main house is constructed with 3-by-4 footers supporting retaining walls. There are membrane vapor barriers throughout the exterior walls and foundation. The home is fitted with 12-gauge wiring, atypical for a home built during that time period.
The attached 900-square-foot three-car garage suite is tucked behind an angled retaining wall and blends so well with the exterior of the home it is nearly unnoticeable from the street.
The flat roof, not often a popular design choice in Arizona, is bolstered with built-up foam roofing material that has championed not a single leak in its 32 years.
Eighty-five tons of soil was integrated into the design with the intention of blending earth and structure.
And despite that, Jake said they've only had one termite appearance. Considering a three-decade span, this speaks to the quality of the barriers and the construction protocol.
As one walks up the expansive driveway of pavers, the design carries visitors through a series of broad and slightly raised platforms of concrete, succulents and desert vegetation arranged in oversize pots.
A secluded yet inviting front entrance is tucked under an unobtrusive roof line and surrounding desert environment.
The 300-pound oak front door rotates outward onto the porch, supported by two steel pins.
On one side of the door is a secluded sitting area overlooking the earth berms surrounding the unseen garage suite. The home office window overlooks the outdoor front entry and landscaping.
A glass wall panel greets visitors entering the Pickard home and provides an airy separation to the dining room behind, diffusing sunlight from oversize Pella windows spanning the north-exposed patio and backyard.
Incorporating two windows in a room to maximize natural light is a design standard for Wright-like architecture.
The living room is to the right of the entry and down a few steps. Its leather furniture and eclectic accouterments reflect a Western décor. A framed vintage photo of the Arizona Rangers from the early 1900s adds to the rustic feel of Arizona history.
The master bedroom is beyond the living room, and has a fireplace and large wood-framed windows overlooking the patio and yard.
Ceramic floor tiles and wood-framed windows are consistent throughout the house.
The large, u-shaped kitchen is to the left of entry. A picture window takes in the view of mature trees and lawn. The family room is wood cabinets and bookcases, and set off with a stone fireplace.
Utility costs for this earth- integrated house run consistently low.
Over the years, additional buildings have been added to the property. A guest house boasting 2,100 square feet and a basement is at the west end of the property. It has its own driveway and security gate.
Jake and Colette have petitioned their house be listed with the National Register of Historic Places. Although the house meets the criteria for evaluation on its pedigree of architecture, it does not meet the 50-year age requirement.
They'll try again on July 4, 2036.
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