Kan Wee Wagen Teh, B.A. (Architecture), M.Arch. candidate

Southern California Institute of Architecture, Los Angeles, U.S.A.





The site of the architecture project is located at the Jumbo Rocks of Joshua Tree National Park in California. It is an enigmatic landscape of dramatic shadows cast by the weathered crevices of the boulders that are piled and wedged between each other (image 2). The architecture intervention aims to be an extension of this exotic quality. The design strategy first involves the extraction of the essence of the site’s unique character in the form of a genetic architecture component. This genetic component will then be proliferated in a selected locale to generate an architecture spatial condition that is embedded with the essence of the enigmatic site.

Project Description

The design strategy originates from the intention of mimicking a similar experience of shadows through architectural sun-shading devices. The weathering process of the boulders is reinterpreted and graphically abstracted in the form of hole-patterns on a basic module which functions simultaneously as a sun-shading device and a floor panel (image 2).


Adopting the idea of fractal geometry (image 3), a common organizational principle of complex patterning system found in nature, the basic module is allowed to multiply until it forms a dense lattice structure (images 1 and 4) that wedges against the boulder walls of the valley in the selected location. The suspension of the architecture in the valley utilizes a similar structural principle of the rock piles in the landscape (image 8). The structural make up of each component also adopts a similar fractal principle (image 5). As the component increases in size, the supporting beams and struts are divided into smaller units in a fractal pattern to minimise structural problems associated with long spanning structures.


The resulting dense pattern of sun-shading devices interacts with the sunrays to generate an intricate “rock weathering” shadow pattern in the valley that is reminiscent of the enigmatic landscape. Layers of structural glass “skins” (images 6 and 7) are strategically integrated with the lattice of sun-shading floor panels to perform simultaneously as screens against the occasional rain in the desert area and also as reflective surfaces that visually multiply and further dramatize the architecture effect.


The fractal strategy also produces an interesting spatial quality in the architecture where as one proceed deeper into the core of the architecture, spaces become larger but yet more shaded as there are more layers of denser sun-shading panels running above it (images 8, 9, 10 and 11). This creates an ideal refuge for rock climbers and visitors of the park seeking temporary shade. The dramatic shadow patterns, interplay of opacity and transparency of the sun-shading panels and the reflection of the glass “skins” culminate in an architecture that blurs the boundary between the interior and the exterior. A visitor can never distinguish between being in the architecture or being in the landscape. In essence, the architecture is the landscape and the landscape is the architecture. The architecture is an extension of the environment that continues to connect its inhabitants’ sensory experience to the unique qualities of the landscape (image 12).

Image 1 (Shadow pattern)

Image 2 (Site)


Image 3 (Fractal diagram)

Image 4 (Bird’s eye view)

Image 5 (Structural makeup of modules)

Image 6 (Structural glass “skins”)

Image 7 (Structural glass “skin” detail)

Image 8 (Section across pavilion)


Image 9 (Level 3 plan)

Image 10 (Level 4 plan)

Image 11 (Level 5 plan)

Image 12 (Pavilion interior)