architect: Ibarra Rosano Design Architects, Tucson, Ariz.

project: Six, Tucson

detail: Entry gates

Luis Ibarra says courtyards are the best “technique for living in the desert climate.” In fact, his latest development project with partner (and wife) Teresa Rosano, RA, LEED AP, counts on the appeal of courtyard living to sell six spec houses. The L-shaped houses are grouped in pairs, with side-by-side courtyards serving as one big buffer between house and street. A continuous stucco wall punctuated by pre-rusted garage doors and twin steel entry gates encloses the courtyards.

“The first impression of each house is this dramatic gate,” Ibarra says. “A big horizontal gate was an obvious choice for aesthetics as well as function.” Enclosing the courtyards allows owners to open up their house to cool nights without feeling exposed. But when they want a view of the neighborhood, the 9-foot-wide gate pivots open with a gentle push, thanks to Ibarra's design intuition and metal fabricator Don Murphy's expertise. Each gate's hollow structure keeps it light and easy to operate. Blackened steel panels are fastened to a welded tube steel frame with hex head screws. Ibarra likens the look to an old plane with exposed rivets.

Owners are given the option of allowing the steel to patina and rust over time, or they can have their gate sealed so the steel will retain its blue-black luster. Each gate hangs a scant 4 inches off the ground, but an 18-inch gap between the top of the 6-foot-tall steel panels and the stucco wall offers glimpses of trees and sky. A narrow strip of translucent polycarbonate breaks up the expanse of steel and provides shadowy notice if someone approaches.

general contractor: Repp Design + Construction, Tucson, Ariz.

metal fabricator: Graphic Iron, Tucson

materials: Blackened steel, steel piping, Polygal, hex head self-tapping screws

photography: Bill Timmerman