Kendrick Bangs Kellogg was an American architect ahead of his time, engaging architecture with the elements of nature in a way that reinvented the meaning of modern design.
The ingenuity behind Kellogg’s Desert House came to fruition in 1993, which at the time the architectural feat was bequeathed to American watercolour artist, Bev Doolittle. Photographer Lance Gerber captures Kellogg’s dexterous engineering in photos that reinvigorates his architectural legacy. Known for his photography of California’s high deserts, Gerber brilliantly frames the Desert House among the naturally occurring environment of Joshua Tree National Park.
From the exterior, the Desert House can be likened to what one would imagine a martian’s vacation home to be like on some desert planet a couple galaxies next door. Kellogg’s design takes on an outlandish approach starting with its completely concrete shell. However, the textured colour of the concrete is meticulously forged into silhouettes that curiously soften the jabs of Mother Nature’s colossal rock piles.
Without traditional walls, the Desert House is constructed of 26 grey columns with panes of glass enclosing the intervals. The solid columns seem to boil over and flare into elongated forms as if blown in by the desert wind and petrified in time, constituting a mushrooming kind of canopy for its inhabitants. These fragments are also joined by glass panes to create a nuanced roof with dual function, to cover and to peer at the desert sky. Accents of burnt ironwork freckle the property in deliberate ways – from the lancet fence to the sharp petals of the castle-like gate.
Project partner and designer John Vulgrin is the man who domesticated the interior of the monumental Desert House. Upon entering the building, one can note the steadfast use of a bronzed rust detail, slithering its way through the living spaces and never breaking character – even when practicalized as a ribcage to support glass tables. Looking up, the layers sprung from the thick pillars provide varying levels of depth that are musing to the eye. Staying true to the locality, Vulgrin incorporated large stones inside the home to firmly establish the organic style he and Kellogg strove to achieve. In the central atrium towers a scalloped light fixture and throughout the house, spoked lamps hang horizontally like floating seashell orbs.
The Desert House is an architectonic stunt of grandeur that elevates the standard of organic innovation. Kendrick Bangs Kellogg accomplished a work so incredibly immersive and synchronised with nature, making the Desert House a sculptural masterpiece of design.
All images, courtesy of Lance Gerber