helixa shelter

Built as a thesis project while studying at Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, the Helixa Shelter is an exploration of material, form and experience. Building upon the history of Taliesin apprentices building and living in tents in the Arizona desert, Helixa is a new take on an old tradition.  Rethinking the pyramid form of the historic tents, this shelter transforms a golden ratio spiral into a cozy three dimensional space for sleeping, studying, contemplating and enjoying the unique beauty of the desert landscape. 

The central chimney opens to an outdoor seating area for early evening warmth and late night gatherings.  The warm of the fire is transferred through the chimney to the sleeping platform behind.  Whether or not a fire is lit, earthbag building technology and an adobe sleeping platform create a low impact, high thermal mass structure that warms with the sun throughout the day and radiates that heat back to the occupant throughout the night. All the earthen material for the construction was harvested from a slowly deteriorating rammed earth wall elsewhere on the property.  Painstakingly gathered and hauled out to Helixa’s site, great care was taken not to disturb the delicate desert ecosystem beyond the footprint of the shelter.

Oriented such that the user can enjoy the light of the sunrise everyday without leaving the comfort of their bed, the spiral shape still allows for privacy and enclosed storage at the foot of the bed.  A custom welded ladder at the front of the chimney creates visual interest while also acting as construction scaffolding, structural support and sunset viewing access.

This entire structure was built by hand with locally sourced, upcycled and donated materials.  In keeping with the Taliesin tradition, the space was envisioned to have a life beyond that of the original occupant, either being transformed by a future student, or slowly eroding back into the landscape leaving nothing but a few sticks of metal to hint at its prior existence.


Scottsdale, Arizona


Apprentice Shelter