The Organic Architecture Guild

A Sustainability Union
Posts Tagged ‘Student Gallery’

“Brittlebush”, Simón De Agüero

Zen Garden with Saskia Jorda Art Installation
"Brittlebush" By Simón De Agüero, Shelter at Taliesin West

 “Brittlebush”, Simón De Agüero

Brittlebush is a design-build experimental dwelling project by Simón De Agüero, a recent graduate of Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. De Agüero envisioned the design to be an open-air living space with protective roof and walls for the sleeping area, to be used during temperate weather. Phillip Drew, in his book New Tent Architecture, talks about the tent as an aspect of architecture that brings the inhabitant closer to the earth than conventional buildings. Likewise, De Agüero’s choice for the open air was to embrace the desert experience in its fullest. To be inspired by nature throughout the design process is a foundational principle of the project.

Inspiration from nature is a principle of Organic Architecture that comes to mind when thinking of Frank Lloyd Wright.  How a building is situated in its natural environment is an essential point of this consideration. A pre-existing cement slab was the starting point of this project. By using this existing slab as the staging site, damage to the surrounding desert was minimized. De Agüero envisioned a synthesis of the modern tent and organic approach to architecture.

A particularly unique aspect of the design is a steel structure that frames three-inch rammed-earth walls surrounding a patio, fireplace, and bed. The structure’s masts and anchors can adaptively accommodate a fabric roof membrane of either shade-cloth or vinyl. The bed platform is situated above a fireplace for passive winter heating. This design concept includes an indoor-outdoor terrace that works equally well for drinks with friends or for sitting down and reading a book. The social patio has three chairs and a meditative Zen garden, all designed to integrate with the larger whole. Approximately 90% of the steel in the project was salvaged from the school scrap yard; 100% of the earth for the walls was from the school property; 100% of the wood used for the formwork was salvaged from onsite renovation waste.

De Agüero is early in his career in architecture. Brittlebush is an experiment in materials, asking its resident to question the boundaries between themselves and nature. Like other desert dwellings at Taliesin West, Brittlebush is a place to contemplate the range of architectural needs with a corporal experience. Immediately five minutes away from Taliesin West is the greater metropolitan area of Phoenix, Arizona. What does it mean to dwell in this growing, mechanized civilization and yet remain close to the desert? This question was deep in Simón De Agüero’s mind throughout the development of the project.

The structure can be visited on the student-led Taliesin West Desert Shelter Tour on Saturdays at 1:30 pm from mid-November through mid-April.



  • Tenshon (Membrane Fabrication)
  • GaliPacific (Fabric Manufacturer)
  • Saskia Jorda ( Art installation
  • Erik Krautbauer,  Assistant project manager.
  • Taliesin Apprentices and FLLWSA Staff