Tucson-based architect Rick Joy may be known best for the expressive, dignified forms of his houses, but when asked how he might describe his style, he denies having one. “It would be really boring to have a style and impose it on everyone,” he says. Nevertheless, when a friend and first-time client—owner of a Canadian lighting agency—commissioned him to design a vacation house on one of the Turks and Caicos islands, there was only one aesthetic requirement: that it be a “Rick Joy piece.”
Jump to credits & specifications
Joy’s designs are rooted in the terrain and traditions of each locale and informed by the particular needs and interests of the client. This results in a body of work that embraces a wide range of shapes and materials, from a tradition-inspired shingle-and-stone residence with a gable roof in Vermont to a sleek glass and steel-clad villa in the Arizona foothills.
For the house in Turks and Caicos, Joy was given a site nestled between a roadway and the rocky edge of a shallow inlet, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean’s turquoise waters.
He first looked to the local building culture for inspiration, but decided to go in a different direction. “Here it’s all about block and stucco, and I don’t like to put frosting on my buildings,” he says. Still, the architect used as much from the island as he could. For the structural frame, he opted for a concrete mixture of locally sourced sand and aggregate, which resulted in a “Caribbean white” hue. Throughout the interiors, the concrete is left exposed for floors and walls, complemented by sapele mahogany ceilings, doors, window frames, and built-ins.
Because the primary intention of the client, who makes frequent trips to the island from Toronto, was to have a place to lounge and take in the scenery with his extended family, Joy placed the kitchen, dining, and living area in a standalone pavilion at the back of the site, near the water. Surrounded on three sides by operable, full-height glazing, this 720-square-foot structure provides the house’s primary views. The sliding doors at the southeastern and northwestern walls open up to sheltered, open-air porches. An adjacent terrace offers an additional place to gather.
An asymmetrical cedar-clad pitched roof functions to help naturally ventilate the pavilion, capturing the prevailing north wind and pulling hot air out from the top of the room through a small window that can be opened and closed; it also adds a playful contrast of shape and texture.
Three bedrooms and support spaces, including a media room, pantry, two interior courtyards, and storage, are situated in a separate one-story volume, a low-slung rectilinear form that runs alongside the road, acting as a protective shield to the shared spaces behind it. “I wanted it to look like more of a landscaped wall than a house,” says Joy. The 2,500-square-foot building’s function as a barrier is further underscored by its limited glazing, which helps to keep the inside cool. Skylights and small, sporadically placed window openings limit visual access to the outside but provide ample natural light.
In a layout akin to that of a standard motel, the private rooms are organized along the building’s length, with each room opening out to the pavilion, terrace, and pool area. The decision to keep circulation entirely outdoors was driven by a need to be economical (“It saved a lot of square footage,” says Joy), but it is a practical feature as well: “Heating and cooling the pathway between rooms didn’t make sense in this environment.” Although the Turks and Caicos climate is for the most part dry, deeply recessed entryways afford respite from occasional inclement weather.
A small dock at the tip of the site provides direct access to the water; it is also a landing spot for fishermen selling their latest catch, which can be prepared, cooked, and enjoyed just feet away, in a truly relaxed fashion. Says Joy of the house, “It really is the perfect place to lounge.”
Rick Joy Architects
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Principal(s) in charge: Rick Joy
Architect of record:
James Hamilton Architects
Rick Joy, Claudia Kappl
crucial input from owner
Structural: Michael Harris Engineering
Lighting Design: CLL . Concept Lighting Lab, LLC
Structural system: Cast-in-Place Concrete, Structural Timber
Manufacturer of any structural components unique to this project: Concrete Plant: CBMS Ltd
Tile/shingles: Cedar Shingles
Wood frame: Wood Windows: TC Millwork
Glass: Glazing: PPG Solexia Glass
Skylights: Custom Local-made Skylights
Wood doors: Wood Doors: TC Millwork
Sliding doors: Wood Sliding Doors: TC Millwork
Locksets: FSB Locksets
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Casework: Southwind Millwork
Special surfacing: Concrete Sealer: Prosoco
Interior ambient lighting: Flos: Tab T and Tab F
Downlights: Custom: Custom Steel Tube with SORAA LED Par 38
Tasklighting: LED LINEAR : Xoominaire and VarioLED Flex VENUS
Exterior: Hunza: Pool Lite
Dimming system or other lighting controls: Lutron Diva Dimmers and Claro Switches
La Toscana, Elba Series