An El Paso home artfully harmonizes with the Chihuahuan Desert.

Project Broadmoor House
Location El Paso
Architect Martina Lorey Architects
Design Team Martina Lorey, AIA, Sherry Mowles, AIA
Contractor Caldwell Builders
Civil Engineer SLI Engineering
Structural Engineer FE Structural Engineering Studio
MEP Engineer 360 Engineering
Landscape Architect Quercus Group
Pool Designer Questar
Photographer Leonid Furmansky

When Martina Lorey, AIA, left home at 17, she was determined to study architecture. At the time, she had been working as a butcher at an El Paso Safeway, and the closest to the architecture world she could get was landing a job with an MEP engineer. Lorey took it as progress and was eventually able to join architecture offices and find additional mentorship. This circuitous path culminated into her becoming the second registered female architect practicing in El Paso, decades after the first. Lorey’s work experience reflects time well spent and makes for an entrancing talk about life and architecture. It also shows up in her rigor and efficiency, mastery of the section, and methodical handling of detail. The Broadmoor House speaks to these attributes and her wisdom in the medium of home

Many of Lorey’s clients have worked with her on past projects, which was the case with the owners of the Broadmoor House. The project was generated during a conversation between Lorey, her client, and the client’s contractor. At that meeting, Lorey listened and sketched improvisationally, to scale, until they all left the meeting having created the concept and massing of the home. The client’s wishes for the program were that it be multigenerational, providing space for their older children and 10 grandchildren to visit, a place for their contemporary art collection, and a setting for regional philanthropy. The home was completed 42 months after that initial meeting. 

While discussing the project, Lorey modestly offers that the most important part of designing a home is to have deep, mutual trust between the client and the architect. Those of us familiar with her work, however, might say it’s actually her magical way of marshaling the environment and her Teutonic sense of order (Lorey’s family emigrated from Germany), both of which underscore this project. The Broadmoor House needed to be large, uninterrupted, and unembellished, taking a stand for clarity about its context. It was not to be another project about “blurring inside and out” or some modernist trope, but rather a home that submits itself to the ecologies around it. It was imperative that the home sync to the rhythms of the Chihuahuan Desert and capture what is both imposing and delicate about that environment, while also being rational in plan.

To the east of the home are the mostly unadulterated Franklin Mountains, as they begin their descent into the Juarez Valley. These provide the home’s most obvious context; additional context includes the Coronado Country Club golf course, at the foothills of the mountains. To work with these two environments, Lorey tugged the site up to street level at the north elevation and above the golf course at the south elevation, capturing a classical contrast of field and garden. The home’s north elevation leads up from the street through a dooryard with rail-height cast concrete walls and a desert garden procession. Past the barrel cacti and a few varieties of agave, you arrive into the courtyard, enclosed at the east and west by the home’s massive ICF walls clad in honed Lueders gray limestone walls, which were quarried for the project. Equally formidable glass walls bound the courtyard and the home’s gallery and dining room, both 20-foot-tall volumes. On the structure’s south side, a 90-foot-long pool hovers 16 feet above the golf course, reflecting and refracting shapes from the home’s 12-foot cantilevered eaves, but more so, drawing an emphatic line under the golf course and mountain viewshed.

Throughout the house, the encompassing fenestration maintains a constant relationship with El Paso’s enormous skies. When the skies change from pinks to oranges to blues throughout the day, so does the home’s interior. Likewise, as the sunset wraps around the west elevation, the lights of Juárez come in from the south. The gallery and the great room alongside it are essential to the home’s axis and distribution of light and air. When the gallery’s bounding glass doors open, the space reveals its dogtrot origins, capturing desert breezes, the humidity coming off the tiff green, and the methodical sounds of a game of golf. To preserve these experiences, Lorey tucked mechanical and electrical systems under the raised western elevation. Here, the systems are never visible, leaving the home to feel as if it runs only on light, massing, and ambient sound. 

The gallery also organizes the home’s private and public realms. Beside it, to the south, is the great room. To the east and down a half-story are three guest suites and a bunkroom lined up along a glazed hall, and up the stair is the primary suite. In the making of the stair, Lorey was more invested in the tactile experience of it rather than it being a grand and showy feature. The result is a dimmed-light, warm and nurturing enclosure clad in white oak planks. The stair’s only punctuations are a light slot and a velvety forged steel handrail. Lorey gets nostalgic about the close working relationship among the team, especially on spaces like the stair, where details were drawn and discussed, and several mockups created, in order to quietly capture something sublime. 

Lorey says that in her projects, her intent is to leave the client with a place that lingers in their mind and harmonizes with the moments of their lives. The Broadmoor House has that dream-like quality she intended. The home may be lavish with meticulous artisanal detailing and rich visuals, but these are less direct experiences than its ethereal existence. In this project, Lorey gives humility through its lush and friendly beauty to what could have ended up austere. The Broadmoor House resonates with wealth of scale, Wrightian sections, high architectural status, and even references to Carlo Scarpa’s work, but its felt experience is that the desert has been made benevolent—and that it is home.  

Laura Foster, AIA, is an El Paso architect who has worked in local government for more than a decade as El Paso’s first city development architect, as the city’s first chief architect, and presently as El Paso Water’s first architect. Foster graduated from the Southern California Institute of Architecture.

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