Architect and photographer Adam Rouse rediscovers the High Desert House in different light and seasons.

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November 30, 2022

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Adam Rouse has spent many seasons at the High Desert House in the Palm Springs area, overlooking the Coachella Valley. He’s photographed it at different times of year, and he designed it. After a career in architecture for more than 15 years, Adam shifted to photography full-time a few years ago. “I’m intimately familiar with the house,” he says. “I’ve been shooting it since the beginning, so I was very familiar with what the light was doing.”

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“We kept the material palette very minimal. The predominant cladding is a charred Shou Sugi Ban siding.” They were inspired by the property’s ancient pinyon trees—one of which they saw had been struck by lightning.

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The seasonal light inspired Adam to tell the home’s story differently, using shadows and the changing scenery around it to capture whole environment rather than simply photographing the interior and exterior. “My task as the photographer was to document how the landscape changed and how the building changed. It can become so abstract.”

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Adam says the clients “live impeccably.” “Everything you see is how it was. Nothing was staged.”

Adam worked to capture the ephemeral nature of this change from day to day and season to season. “The interesting part of the desert is the starkness—the way the light hits the forms. It lends itself to a black and white approach for telling some of the story.” The question, he says, was how to juxtapose the building and the landscape, which inspires interiors even as far away as Bermonds Locke in London. Adam wanted to show how the landscape overwhelms the building at times and vice-versa.

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Beyond the bedrooms and kitchen, the design is open with plentiful glass and sliding doors beneath a single square roof canopy. Adam likens the design to holding a frame up to the sky, as the house frames the landscape. “It makes you look at the sky in a new way.”


A version of this article originally appeared in Sixtysix Issue 09 with the headline “High Desert House.” Subscribe today.