Wallpaper magazine

This format allows you to walk through the house and see it from viewpoints marked on the plan.

Go here to walk through

Here is the article text-

Few modern houses can claim to be the result of a truly personal manifesto. Even fewer can be attributed solely to a single person, from detail drawing through to concrete pouring, brick laying and plumbing. But the Rosa Muerta House, located on the fringes of Joshua Tree in Eastern California, is all of these things. Robert Stone is a singular architect, a man concerned not with following the architectural herd, but with infusing his work with a sense of theatricality, atmosphere and craftsmanship.

Rosa Muerta is a one bedroom house, a low pavilion that makes visual references to everything from Mies van der Rohe to Robert Smithson. ‘My aesthetic basically started from nothing. Just an honest search for a way to make architecture that is more subtle and meaningful to me,’ Stone says. As interested in sub-cultural design expressions like low-riding, ceiling-mounted mirrors and fancy ironwork as he is in minimal art, the house is a collision of craft and culture, entirely hand built by Stone himself.

As a result, the Los Angeles-based architect prefers to exist at the periphery of the modern art world. Stone embraces the complexities and contradictions of contemporary architectural design, creating forms and concepts that occasionally jar or conflict. For Stone, the more juxtapositions the better. ‘Ultimately, my work is very much for others to experience and create meaning with,’ he says, ‘but it begins with personal references simply because that is the only way I know how to work with real subtlety and understanding.’

The plan exploits the arid desert location, focused around an outdoor living room with spa and fire pit, partly open to the sky and surrounded only by the combination of intricate metalwork mesh and black-stained concrete blocks. Above, the canopy roof initially appears to be a direct quote of the Case Study aesthetic, yet is actually carefully mirrored on the underside, reflecting the desert soil and scrub that runs right up to the building line. To be inside is to be outside.

By contrast, the solitary bedroom is a dark, mysterious cave with the bed flanked by planters and a small kitchen, utility area and bathroom located alongside them. There are no definitive reference points, no concessions to fashion and no desire to promote a hollow futurism. Stone seems genuinely aghast at the world of ‘high class luxury aesthetics’, and Rosa Muerta derives its sense of drama and place through a self-conscious theatricality and spatial games. The low culture references are reverential without being patronizing, the ‘trash’ aesthetic of hearts, flowers and mirrors quoted and reappropriated without irony. A truly personal space, embedded in its landscape and set apart from the rat race of modern design.

Mark magazine – Rosa Muerta

Here is the article text-

Architect Robert Stone and I are planning my visit to Rosa Muerta, a textured and reflective black mirage, which materializes just east of Joshua Tree in Southern California. In our initial correspondence, Stone tries to illustrate what I’m in for: “The house sits out in the middle of the open desert, overgrown with weeds and grasses like an exquisite burned-out Barcelona Pavilion from another, much sexier universe.”

Several days later, my car thermometer climbs 17 degrees in under three hours, ultimately perching at 40 degrees celsius. Congested Los Angeles freeways give way to dirt roads, steep grades and stretches of dry, uninhabited land. The setting is extraterrestrial, to be sure. And when I finally the integrated threshold from scorched sand to smooth black concrete, indeed I feel I’ve stepped through the looking glass in Barcelona and into Stone’s iridescent, heat-bent and handcrafted galaxy (where I experience and instant drop in temperature under the dramatic overhang).

Reflections of Mies van der Rohe bounce, distorted, from the structure’s chrome columns. They replicate again in the (outdoor) living room’s low, mirrored canopy, which reflects back at the reflecting pool (also a spa) and makes the desert floor a ceiling. But with a nod to the columns, Stone urges me to consider the chrome details of a Mongoose BMX bike as well. Later, the architect alludes to legwarmers (yes, the ‘80’s fashion staple) as he explains how the black rope around each column visually disconnects the straight line of the supporting structure, “to make it float a little more”.

“Clearly, I understand what it means to take a chrome column, and it’s the Barcelona Pavilion- but it’s coming out of the dirt,” Stone says. “It’s not sitting on a plinth; it’s in the desert. I know what the high references are for these things, but there are also ones that are just close to my heart.”

In this way, Rosa Muerta is welded of dichotomous orientation points. It simultaneously quotes from the architecture of textbooks and references the twisted wrought iron of Southern California’s barrios. It borrows heavily from the architect’s personal experiences growing up in Palm Springs. The sunken living room, for instance, is reminiscent of a pool’s shallow end, where Stone says he spent much of his young life “gabbing with friends while everybody was skating”. Stone remarks on the unique view of the world achieved while sitting with his head just above ground level, one arm up, level with the landscape.

“Think of it like language,” Stone says of his aesthetic approach. I can go to Japan and learn how to ask where the train station is, but here I can speak with a kind of poetry and understanding that is much more subtle. That’s what I am after – a way to make architecture that can work culturally in subtle and intricate ways.”

Throughout the long conversation, our voices are punctuated by birdsong, the skittering of a lizard on concrete, and the distant growl of an engine. “I hope you get the dirt bike in the background,” Stone says with a laugh. “That really is the context.” Later, the architect, who writes prolifically of his work, quotes from his notebook: “The desert is awe inspiring and serene in its emptiness. But, just as important is the detritus of modern culture, a bleached out Coors can, or a shotgun shell on the ground, that reminds you that nature and culture cannot be separated.”

I arrived at Rosa Muerta on the heels of a fashion shoot, the only evidence of which remained in thousands of footsteps still littering the desert sand. Rosa Muerta is a public space, but the fingerprints of visitors readily wash off the metal appliances and custom-cast concrete blocks. Physically, the structure does not allow for someone else’s baggage (save for some ashes in the fire pit). “There’s no parking, no garage, no storage.” The nearest neighbour is over 180m away.

And so, Rosa Muerta has seen celebrations that resonated from Joshua Tree all the way to YouTube, but it has also hosted a visitor who spent five days meditating and been the site of a marriage proposal. “There will probably be all these babies named Rosa,” the architect laughs.

Stone says the space was designed for “parties”, but he uses the word as shorthand for the disconnect a visitor might feel in a structure that offers no narrative cues. “The aesthetic being completely original to this place, you come out here and have to reinvent yourself,” Stone says. “Who am I in this little black house?”

Then, after a moment’s thought, he adds: “In America, every community that’s worth a damn has an abandoned house that all the kids know about. And that’s where they go and party. In some ways, I am building that,” he says. “An open space with no adult supervision.”

Photography – Jaime Nelson / Vogue

Jamie Nelson shot Diana Moldovan at Acido Dorado for Vogue Taiwan


Architectural Digest France

Abitare Magazine

The online post includes Sex Pistols and Tarantino clips that I think really enhance the read, see it here-


Here is the text by Fabrizio Gallanti-

At first sight deserts look empty, pure and intact. But the freedom they enjoy from the stricter controls imposed on cities and “colonized” places really means that they are areas where the remnants of our civilization accumulate, the weirdest of social and cultural experiments are carried out, and widely differing images and imagery clash and interbreed in the glaring sunlight.

America’s deserts in particular are ones where this untidy otherness is most evident – the most extreme military experiments, introverted communities of obsessive fanatics. These deserts are places that many people escape to and then isolate themselves in. They are also places where relics of modernity accumulate, lime-encrusted surfaces where the weirdest mirages settle over time.

Not long ago Enzo Mari, Giovanna Silva and Gianluigi Recuperati travelled through California, Nevada and Arizona searching for relics of modernity dumped among the rocks, sand and dust. In “Scenes in America Deserta”, Reyner Banham’s vision was more naturalistic and sublime, though punctuated by encounters with human architecture and activity (Frank Lloyd Wright, Paolo Soleri). The desert’s visual richness and infinitude has appealed most of all to filmmakers – the Coen brothers, Wim Wenders, Michelangelo Antonioni, David Lynch and others, not to mention hundreds of westerns. Though technically in Mexico, the “Titty Twister” strip club in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s “From Dusk till Dawn” typifies the hallucinatory character of the American desert.

This is why Robert Stone’s designs epitomize the kind of aesthetic fusion made possible precisely because there are no traditional and contextual constraints. Stone is building a set of week-end houses called Pretty Vacant Properties a short distance from the Joshua Tree national park in California. Commercially speaking, the development is similar to the house in Vals: you rent an “extreme” landscape along with visually unusual house fitted with all mod cons (in Vals the landscape is more normal and the house more original; in the desert it’s the other way round). To date Stone has completed two houses: “Rosa Muerta”, a dark-punk apparition under a scorching sun, and “Acido Dorado”, a golden dream perhaps inspired by the LSD that folks quaffed by the gallon in the psychedelic years. The story so far seems to be born out by Stone’s brief account of why this precise spot was chosen.

“Joshua Tree also has a storied history as a rock and roll retreat and spiritual tabula rasa. If you are tuned in you will also see glimpses of a d.i.y. cultural utopia that is a hotbed of electronic folk music, rock and roll rebirth, new age naivete, military-industrial complexities, burnouts, high art, low art, and everything in-between. Whatever you find out here, whether it is amazingly good or so wrong it’s right . . .  it was at least somebody’s godhead at some point in time.”

“Rosa Muerta” has been widely reviewed (most recently in ArchDaily). “Acido Dorado” has been used for fashion shoots but also deserves to be assessed as architecture.

The house blends the layout of Californian 1950-60s modernist houses with sensitive use of rough-and-ready DIY-type materials – the concrete blocks in the yard are similar to those used for all low-cost building in California and Mexico. The house is designed to be thrown wide open – sliding walls eliminate all distinctions between inside and outside – and a number of small indoor atriums planted with ocotillos further accentuate the “geographical” ethos. Decoratively speaking, the use of colour and floral wrought-ironwork evokes Mexican imagery, tattoos and rock culture. There is also a heart set in the façade (how many architects would have the courage to do that?). The slick interiors and furnishings draw on the ideals of modernist comfort and withdrawal from the world sometimes associated with sophisticated bachelordom. All in all it’s an intriguing house, part abandoned bunker and part Palm Springs villa. “Pretty Vacant” is also the title of a Sex Pistols song.

Fabrik magazine

Robert Stone: The Anarchitect

He’s the James Dean of architecture. But this rebel does have a cause-a razor-sharp one. Erected by his own hands, two rule-bending houses reveal Robert Stone’s purpose: Acido Dorado, a dazzling palace and the sinister shrine of Rosa Muerta. Surrounded by the desert’s austere grandeur, the houses represent the yin and yang, Jekyll and Hyde of Stone’s perspicacity on life.

Both houses have been featured in a plethora of fashion ads and design magazines for their tricked out Latino-meets-Gucci qualities. But Stone seems unaffected, as he bypassed the normal route most architecture graduates take and went out, with no architecture firm, no clients, no commission, and made his castles in the sky a reality on earth. While digging a ditch for his next house, we managed to make Stone stand still for a few moments to find out how this avant-garde architect makes his way:

You’ve done two Joshua tree houses so far, Rosa Muerta and Acido Durado, can explain which came first and what the different approaches were on each?

Acido Dorado was designed first, but I held it out of the press and let Rosa Muerta go public for a year before talking about it. I think of Rosa Muerta as being more physical – sex and death predominate.  Acido Dorado is more mental- transcendence, hallucination. That is just how I think about them in retrospect. . . really the whole point is to get am out beyond language . It may be poetic architecture but it is ultimately architecture and not poetry.

How did the land inspire your design or did you have these designs in your mind and then looked for a piece of land that fit the structures?

I have been working for a long time on trying to push long and low structures beyond anything familiar, basically to re-energize the relationship between people, buildings and ground- and so the idea that architecture that cuts into the ground on these open desert plains has been brewing for a long time. But I also went to the desert to make something that would engage the culture as well as the nature of the desert. The meaning of the houses arises from the interaction of all of those things. So it isn’t just the landscape. There is no such thing as nature separate from culture.


Was it important in the end that you decided to build them yourself? Was it because you couldn’t find anyone to do what you had designed or was it a personal challenge to complete the task?

It helps that I know how to build, it is the “medium” of architecture after all, but I am as academic an architect as you will find. I spent 20 years filling sketchbooks and reading and writing – I am kind of like the typical paper architect who lives in the world of ideas, – except that grew up building houses so when the ideas fell into place I was ready to go.

How important is the form vs function principle in your work?

I don’t believe they are separate. That is really the big break with the architecture of the past century that I am proposing. That form isn’t a stand-alone characteristic that can be considered separate from function or meaning. The current pretension toward “formal abstraction” in architecture is not only dishonest, but conservative and ultimately boring.

I explored a much expanded definition of function in my early sculptural work and form, function and meaning entirely coalesced when I hit my stride.

In an LA article, they mention your diverse influences such as Couture fashion, road-side burials, military hardware and evil corporate modernism. What is the common thread?

I think there is a strange distrust of anything individualistic or personal in the culture of architecture right now – the corporate model is leading the avant-garde because the whole “starchitect” trend was led by very un-thoughtful whim-based work.  So I have to admit with some hesitation that the common thread among those things that you list is “me- and my experiences.” It’s very out of style I know – but I have to explain this,  because it isn’t the “starchitect” model of practice. My work is not “about” me at all. I use my own experiences to make work that is “about” everything else outside of me. I think great architecture can only be made by individuals–  but I hope that by being honest and open my work can rise above it’s humble origins within myself as an individual.

You refer a lot to the Latina culture in articles and it can be seen in your houses with heart symbols, metal roses, etc. Were you raised in that culture? If not, what draws you to it?

I never get asked that question- thanks for asking that. It’s as simple as this- I want to make meaningful work- deeper, smarter, and more interesting in the long run- you can’t do that if you ignore the time, place, and culture. I live in Southern California, and I’m not a racist, so I don’t ignore the nearly 50% of the culture that is latino. We are all right now making the culture together. I am not even into “multiculturalism” as a topic- I am just into reality.

Your homes are vacation rentals under the name “Pretty Vacant Rentals” but you have a clear idea of who can stay there and who cannot. Can you explain your vetting process and why?

The idea is just to share my work directly with people who connect to it. I just have these two small houses and not much free time out there. I put a lot of effort into making these places available and so I steer it toward people who make an effort to connect with my work- those are the people who enjoy it most so that’s who I want out there. It isn’t at all about exclusivity, but it was always intended to be an underground project that would only be found by people who actually care about new architecture enough to seek it out. That is still mostly the way it works.

Do you think the Joshua Tree houses can be developed into a larger project/duplicated or is that like asking Picasso to paint another Guernica?

I think they are a larger project. . just not by me.  Not in the way they look, but in how they work. I hope they open up possibilities in architecture for other people who see potential for more varied approaches and ideas.

What is the most unexpected outcome you’ve encountered since erecting the now iconic Joshua Tree homes?

It has been interesting to see ideas and aesthetics that I had developed over decades – that were so far out of the “style” of the accepted academic architecture scene- jump from total obscurity to the covers of magazines all over the world. . . kind of skipping the architecture scene altogether and then coming back around. I never cared much about wide audiences, it’s the 1% that really gets it who sustain me, but it was strange to watch the disconnected process.

No guts no glory seems to be your design motto. What advice do you give to new architects on following their instincts, taking risks and going beyond prototype?

It doesn’t feel like it is about guts or glory. The process of developing new ideas unfolds over so many years that by the time anything sees daylight, it is just completely native to me. As for following instincts and going beyond prototype- the difficulty isn’t in following your architectural or artistic voice, it is actually having one.  Architecture has this history of “movements”- groups of architects trying to herd together with manifestos and define the era. This never made sense to me so I knew that I had to look deeper and find new ideas on my own, but I worked for 20 years to do that. By the time I had “found my voice” I didn’t really care if the architecture world understood it- it was truly mine.

Really, if nothing else, I hope that my work makes it easier for others to make new architecture on their own terms. I think in part it took me so long to find my way because the avant-garde architecture scene in my lifetime has been so conservative, and the issues were so tightly framed academically such that it was- and still is for many- inconceivable that there could be alternative approaches. Looking at year after year of formalist architecture and reading theory that denied anything subjective. .  it made it really hard to develop my own work. I hope my work points out to others his vast field of unexplored possibilities for architecture that I now find myself in.

What upcoming projects are you working on? Are they based in Joshua Tree?

No, I have been based in LA for 15 years, my work is all over Southern California.

The next house is on the edge of a national forest- very different from the desert- and the world has really changed in 5 years.  This one is all about re-considering “nature” in terms of nationalism, religion, and ecology and war. I am doing one house at a time and I put everything I have into each one. I think the plan is to build 10-20 houses in my lifetime, one at a time, and make every one the best that I can.  I guess I have a waiting list but it is sort of a question of who is ready to go when I emerge from the studio once a year. I have no intention to set up any kind professional architecture office with overlapping projects.

If you had one thing to change about the urbanization of Southern California, what would it be?

If I changed something it would only reflect my own values. I like that the built environment is like a mirror that reflects societies values and compulsions-good and bad.  I wouldn’t want it to be better. . . then it wouldn’t contain the truth that I look for. We as a culture get what we deserve in the built environment. That sounds misanthropic- but really I think it is more empathetic to look at our faults than to ignore and deny them. When we are good people we will build good cities- until then they will be this inextricable mixture of beauty and tragedy.

And bonus fun question: If you had one mediocre superpower (warming coffee w your pinky for example) what would it be?  

Ha, I think I actually have a mediocre superpower- sleep is sort of optional for me. . . I was destined to either be a studio-obsessed architect or a long-distance truck driver.

Palm Springs Life magazine

Here is the text

About four years ago, something unexpected happened on the eastern edge of Joshua Tree. Down a dirt road, on a large swath of rugged, untouched desert at the base of the mountains, architect Robert Stone began building two houses that recalibrate the notion of what new desert architecture can mean.

“I started as a musician and the worst insult you can give someone in music is to say, ‘You sound like that other guy,’” Stone says. He thinks there’s a perception among many people that it’s risky to build forward architecture that isn’t already accepted in the mainstream. “But my experience is exactly the opposite. It’s really rewarding to have a house that plays a part in a bigger cultural dialog and moves the art forward. It’s not a risk. The real risk is building something like everyone else and limiting everything to real estate comps and dollars per square foot.”

What everyone else does not have is a home like Acido Dorado. While at first glance, this house – and the one Stone built next door, Rosa Muerta – might appear monochromatic, you soon realize that their monochrome backgrounds bring the houses’ rich layers of texture to the foreground. This especially surfaces in the rough gold-painted block, the smooth fence dotted with metal flowers, and the reflection of the water in a shallow indoor reflecting pool at Acido Dorado.

”When I was in graduate school, I began noticing that there were a lot of foregone aesthetic conclusions being reached- the style of modernism was bankable finally and no matter what ideas were the claimed starting point – the work all looked the same.

My model of an ‘honest practice’ was more about asking questions that I didn’t know the answers to. It was about finding your own personal truth through that search; the same way, in a sense, a musician has to find their own sound. If you put three musicians together in a room and they’re each playing the sound they hear in their head, you’re going to get a band that sounds like no other band and it will have its own kind of beauty. That’s what real musicians are chasing, what they hear inside their heads, and I think the way to make architecture that’s compelling is to do that same thing – kind of find something that you can work with on a poetic level.”

Stone grew up in Palm Springs, where his father was a builder. “We’d move every two years after he’d built a new house,” Stone says. “He copied the modernism that everyone loves, and I grew up around that. It obviously forms a kind of background vocabulary for me, but at the same time, I never saw it as the end.”

While studying architecture at UC Berkeley, Stone minored in art history, and spent about 10 years working as an artist, making sculpture that he says had a social component to it: “It was all about how people relate through objects, in a sense. Then, at some point, I realized I was really thinking about architecture with the art I was making, and I needed to bring the intelligence and breadth of current art and the complexity of that practice to architecture.”

“Part of why it’s gold is because I like tight color combinations that resonate with each other, and this house has about five really close colors of gold in it,” Stone says. “It’s also a color that contains everything that I wanted my architecture to do-  ‘Gold’ has so much cultural baggage that it’s impossible to consider it as an abstract. It’s inseparable from the meaning we assign to it.  By doing a house that’s gold, I’m saying, ‘Let’s deal with these associations and make architecture that accepts those kinds of connotations and makes something more of them’ -instead of pretending they don’t exist- which is what architecture has done for decades. When you hear about a gold house, you think, ‘that’s going to be garish’, but out here in this raw space, once it becomes sort of a monochrome, it becomes a natural color in a sense.”

He has a tougher time explaining the big heart on the front of the house. “I think it was an intuitive gesture in the beginning,” Stone says with a laugh. “Notice I said, ‘I think.’. .  I was drawing sketches of houses 10 years ago, and I thought it was funny but interesting how if you put a heart on a drawing it completely changes the meaning and opens up questions that are not being asked in architecture. It was a figure I was doing partly because it is so anti-heroic.  I’m not anymore. I don’t want people to think I’m the ‘heart guy’. But again, these houses are the product of someone who was bored with the narrow conceptual range of sculpturalist architecture, and I was putting this thing out there as a big challenge in a way. The houses come across as kind of sweet on the surface, but it‘s kind of an aggressive thing. They’re sort of saying, ‘I dare you to fold this house into the canon.’ It makes people question what it means, and nobody ever asks what a Gehry building ‘means’. I am just asking different questions that have never really been asked in architecture, and that at least leads me someplace new, that is my own.

Equally intriguing and nonconformist is Rosa Muerta. “I’m sure it sounds crazy – a black house in the desert,” Stone says. “But when you see it, it makes all of the color around it pop. The block walls don’t really look black, because you’re seeing a bunch of tan on them that’s reflected off the desert.” As you walk into the house, you experience the inverse of a classic modernist design where you come into a low space and the roof gets higher. Here, the roof is as low as possible when you walk in and the whole horizon is in view, and then you drop down into the house and it is larger on the inside. The home is completely open to the exterior, which Stone says gives it a magical air. “It seemed like it would be sort of an amazing experience to be in this space that’s finished to this degree but open. It’s kind of like camping – you’re connected to the outdoors the whole time.”

While Stone is the first to admit that the houses aren’t for everyone, he says they’ve opened up his world. “These houses bring people from all over the world who have a common interest in aesthetics and ideas.” And they have also found legions of fans in the worlds of fashion and design. Vogue, Roberto Cavalli, and Marie Claire, among many others, have shot photography with Acido Dorado and Rosa Muerta as their muse. The houses have taken on a life of their own, and the fashion world has really embraced them and presented them in this different way,” Stone says. “That kind of made it OK for the mainstream architecture world to like them, and over time the depth of understanding of this architecture has grown and grown. It’s been really amazing.”

Photography – Galdo & Cloud / The Lab

Julia Galdo and Cody Cloud fashion editorial for The Lab magazine



Elle Decor – Acido Dorado

Elle Decor UK – Feature on Acido Dorado

Gold Standard

Shimmering like a mirage, the surprising spectacle of this metallic house couldn’t contrast more sharply with the surrounding wilderness of the Southern California desert

by Jo Froude

A golden house would be impossible to ignore in any setting. But rising up from the wilderness of the Joshua Tree national park, Acido Dorado can’t fail to inspire a reaction. ‘Gold has so many cultural associations’ says its owner and architect Robert Stone, who insists that the initial shock of the bling factor is short lived. ‘After the first ten minutes, you get used to it. It isn’t really that flashy at all.’ Robert also designed the neighboring Rosa Muerta, a similarly configured but alI-black house which featured in ELLE Decoration last September. ‘It’s an architecture which fits the place,’ he says. ‘The design is inspired by some of the abandoned buildings from the 1920s that you see around here. Not some phony image of the American south-west.’

Honesty is central to the philosophy behind Robert’s striking architecture, which has its roots in conceptual art. ‘I don’t want to create bad copies of someone else’s work,’ he says. ‘If you’re going to make the effort to do something, it has to matter.’ So rather than working for a client and having to compromise on the design, he borrowed the money and now rents out the finished building as a vacation house to cover the costs. I don’t really think of it as my house,’ says Robert. ‘More like the world’s smallest hotel.’

With its mirrored ceilings and gilded interior, Acido Dorado oozes glamour but also has a remarkably close connection to the wilderness of its desert setting. ‘Inside there are many reflective surfaces, but you don’t actually see yourself. The reflections expand the space outwards – it’s not about narcissism.’ Whatever brings guests to this corner of the desert, from untamed nature to dazzling design, the chances are they won’t find exactly what they were expecting – and that’s the way Robert likes it. ‘I love it when the experience of things goes against preconceived ideas.’

Luxury Home magazine

Mark magazine – Acido Dorado

Here is the text by Katya Tylevich

Just east of Joshua Tree National Park is the location for not one, but two of architect Robert Stone’s latest historical reincarnations of modernist pavilions. Last May, I visited the first completed pavilion – Rosa Muerta (Mark #21) – a “stripped down” black structure barely dressed in hearts, wrought-iron, roses and rope, sandwiched between a mirrored ceiling and as many chrome columns as Stone’s wild fantasy marriage of references (Mies meets Mongoose BMX bikes) could accommodate. While at Rosa Muerta, I took an “off-the-record” tour of Stone’s neighbouring project – the Acido Dorado. At the time, this gold pavilion’s furnishing still consisted of Stone’s sleeping bag (evidence of his hyper hands-on method), but its spatial signals were already triggering an immediate physiological response in me. The front steps, for example – 46 cm deep in one direction, 61 cm in the other – physically slow a person down. “Acido Dorado really engages your body”, says Stone. It also screws with your mind. “It will confuse people who like Rosa Muerta”, Stone continued as he was standing against a backdrop of gold-coloured twisted wrought iron dividing him from the hot, naked desert context. The Dorado project, however, is an improvement over the Muerta project in terms of having more navigational cues; like where to sit and where to eat.

When we talk again in November, Stone discusses some of the details of Acido Dorado. For instance, the abundance of gold. “The ultimate symbol of luxury”, Stone says. “But, the house: it’s just gold paint! It contains its own undermining principle.” The other detail he explains are the mirror tinted windows: “Corporate office towers”, “Slick American Psycho avarice”, “Surveillant stare through mirrored sunglasses”, Stone says: “I feel I’m going behind the giant architecture machine, picking up trash it throws out its windows, and holding it up to say “Check this out”, He insists comparing Muerta and Dorado is “like comparing your children”: unfair. Stone designed Dorado before Muerta, and built the two simultaneously, but I tell Stone, Dorado will be received as the second child anyway. “I’m completely fucking ready for the scrutiny”, the architect responds. “I believe this house can stand up to anything anybody throws at it.”

Photography – Sanchez & Mongiello / Bergdorf

Sofia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello shot Guinevere Van Seenus for Bergdorf Goodman magazine

Monument magazine


Here is the text-

What was the construction process of Acido Dorado?

If you are going to dig the ditches the work has to be new, it has to be meaningful, and it has to be your own. I did 100 percent of the building all by myself. Really, I am kind of self-conscious about this. I am coming out in the open with an aesthetic and conceptual approach that I have been developing for 20 years. I don’t want that to be overshadowed by the novelty of the master degree wielding solo-builder story. Philip Johnson inherited his daddy’s fortune and got his work built, I inherited a garage full of tools and got mine built. What is the difference to the architecture? I do think there’s an aesthetic consequence to this though. . .I can’t imagine this process would be worth it if you were doing derivative work, or just some new shape or nice finishes.

Where does this house sit in the context of Californian case study houses and the desert works of Will Bruder and Rick Joy?

I have a personal connection with the case study houses. They represent part of the marketing and lifestyle campaign that built my home town of Palm Springs, and their derivatives still make up much of what is now the vernacular of Southern Californian architecture. Modernism to me wasn’t some special idea that I saw for the first time in an architecture history class at university. It was the vernacular that I grew up with, now part of a vast field of broken utopian ideals turned into marketing campaigns, occupied and detourned into the framework of everyday life. . . and somehow better for it. I played punk shows in the living room of a William Cody house, drained and skated the pool of a William Krisel. People actually live in these houses and change their meaning- they are much more interesting as artifacts when you consider them full of high teenagers 30 years later. That may sound crass, but l’m giving them more credit than those who hold them up as empty objects with no cultural consequences. Bruder and Joy require a different response. I think my ‘desert’ is really different from theirs. I don’t think there is such a thing as nature separate from culture. I am quite sure their parcels had as many spent shotgun shells and bleached out beer cans on them as mine did when they found them . . . but my work somehow acknowledges that . . . and theirs pretends otherwise.

Design Bureau magazine

This story is online with more photos at

When you look at his body of work and his refreshing, original design ethos, Robert Stone is more of an artist than an architect. While many other architects might have you believe the same about them, Stone’s work — bold, raw, engaging, and unapologetic — steers far clear of convention and hip architectural trends that muddy the marketplace with tired tropes. Rosa Muerta was not built for a client, nor did it have any real budget. It was built because Stone had an idea and wanted to share it with the world.

“I want to establish to possibility of an underground architecture that is meaningful in it’s own time and place,” Stone says. “Architecture that matters, if even just to a few people. I want to make work that is every bit as beautiful, sunny, depraved, dark, exotic, familiar, trippy and fucked-up as Southern California is.”

Elements like the fake flowers, mirrored ceilings, and tinted glass are a reaction to the Cholo culture of SoCal, bringing the supposed low-class aspirations of local residents to high design, reinterpreting them into architecture. It’s an acknowledgment, validation, and warm embrace of all that surrounds the house. And because no one lives in the house full-time, Stone has been able to rent it out to hundreds of people — yet another step in the organic process of living, creating, and sharing.

Stone designed and built the house entirely on his own, without help from any other construction workers or contractors. It speaks to Stone’s close emotional relationship to the house, the land, and the culture he grew up in. Rosa Muerta brims with personal touches and humanistic flourishes, like the concrete hearts that adorn the home. Says Stone, ”The heart initially reads as perhaps a pop gesture, but it’s own connotations of love and sincerity bring the next question: ‘does he actually mean it?’ Yes, I mean it.”

Designboom- Rosa Muerta

Rosa Muerta by Robert Stone Comes to Life in California by Danny Hudson


“I wear black on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside.

and if I seem a little strange, well that’s because I am.”

– The Smiths


Following Acido Dorado in the arid landscape of Joshua Tree, LA-based architect Robert Stone has erected the symbolic antithesis to traditional dessert architecture. a structure classically massed and proportioned at times skewed with rebellious eccentricities stands boldly contrasting its natural surroundings. A rich palette of dark hues and textures breathes life into the open air structure offering an endless discovery of tones and reflections in what is otherwise a home rendered of a single color: black. In breaking from expected conventions, the dark residence in a light desert fuses the highest standards of contemporary finishes with a strong almost subversive undertone of social commentary.

The architect explains his thought process to designboom:

“I think Rosa Muerta gets a lot more interesting once you notice that it isn’t just a normal modern house painted black. It is black to the bone.  I used black to negate the house as a figure in the landscape.The desert is seen as a void by many- so the house goes further and voids itself. A desert within a desert – it inverts figure and ground and makes the surrounding desert the focus, the figure, and the color. That is just the surface though.”

“Once you get past the color, and your eyes attune to the details, the house reveals a mix of textures and ideas that one wouldn’t normally accept together- classic modern lines stretched horizontally beyond reason, funereal flowers overtaking structure, limousine glass and lava rock, silk rope on rough wood beams and polished stainless columns that run off into the desert, mirrors secreted  under deep overhangs, a heart shape removed from the center of a concrete wall. It is as highly finished as any jewel of modernism, but perhaps most closely resembles a burned-out abandoned house.”

“I see the tension between these things- and their uneasy resolution under the coat of black paint as the thing that makes the house interesting and meaningful over time. It adds up to a portrait of Southern California desert culture and its complex relationship to nature. The house puts you in the middle of that and you have to figure your way out. some people like this house and some don’t-  I hope it is beyond that and can be seen as a true representation of a larger cultural condition that no other architecture gets close to. .  and that truth is beauty to me.”

“The question of how we relate to nature has been at the core of California modernism for 60 years, but the answers being proposed to that question haven’t changed over that time. Mass production, pre-fab, and clinging faith in technology remain the published response of the architecture world, while the cultural condition that surrounds us has transformed entirely. Nature is no longer simply revered- it is also feared. Technology may save us or kill us. I am interested in the full complexity of our relationship to nature and finding some truth in it whether negative or positive.”