The materials of this house are sculptural and elemental: rammed earth, concrete stem walls and beams, burnt wood, and laser-cut metal. In architect Cade Hayes’ hands, they form a series of solids and voids that blur the line between exposure and enclosure. “Every space is about the landscape,” he says. “The house falls to the background.”

Its layout is keenly attuned to the Sonoran Desert site. The long side faces south to allow the sun to passively heat the concrete floors, and the building’s deep overhangs and thermal mass keep it cool in the summer. A large kitchen/dining/living space is flanked by an acoustically designed music room/recording studio on one side and two bedrooms on the other. Each volume is fitted with glass walls that dematerialize to take in views and breezes.

Our judges applauded the “incredible execution and graceful design that takes the environment 100 percent into account.” Bedroom walls are made of burnt cypress, which protects the wood from insects and fire. Leading to the roof deck is a spiral stair inspired by nature’s patterns: the shade of a mesquite tree, cicada wings, and a prickly pear skeleton. Burnt cedar lines the spiral stairwell—leftovers from the bedroom walls. “It’s a nice feeling, like being inside a cactus,” Hayes says.