| Marfa, Texas
| Pilgrim Building Company
| Casey Dunn
Situated just outside the West Texas art mecca of Marfa, this impeccably realized contemporary ranch comprises eight structures that surround a central courtyard — a hacienda-like layout that nods to some of the region’s earliest residences. Designed by Lake|Flato Architects and constructed by Pilgrim Building Company in collaboration with Enabler Austin, the simply dubbed “Marfa Ranch” meshes organically with its vast surroundings, thanks to both its discreet design and its niche building material: rammed earth.
An ancient and sustainable building method that’s enjoying a well-timed renaissance, rammed earth involves an aggregate — typically dirt, sand, gravel, clay and silt — that gets bound with Portland cement and poured into frames to create walls, floors and foundations. Not only is it incredibly time-consuming, working with rammed earth comes with its own unique set of challenges — especially amid the windy conditions of the high desert. Speaking to Texas Architect Magazine in 2022, Lake|Flato partner Bob Harris explained, “As soon as they pick up a shovel of dirt, it’s halfway across the county. It’s a different environment. It’s something you have to be ready for.”
In addition to features in Architectural Digest, Dwell and Texas Architect — all photographed by Casey Dunn — the Marfa Ranch was highlighted by Austin-based builder Matt Risinger’s The Build Show in a video titled “Rammed Earth: You Won’t Believe How They Build This!” In the video — which was filmed mid-construction in 2019 and has since racked up more than 1.7 million views on YouTube — Pilgrim Building Company founder and president Branson Fustes summed up the rammed earth process as “making sedimentary rock,” while project manager Kyle Melgaard likened the extensive Marfa Ranch gig to “working on an art piece.” (Fun fact: more than three million pounds of earth went into the Marfa Ranch and it was all shoveled by hand.)
Beyond their tactile, striated beauty, the rammed earth walls throughout the 5,000-square-foot complex are two feet thick, providing significant protection from heat, cold and wind. Following a rustic palette of earth tones, wood and steel, the interior spaces are both minimalist and luxurious with ample windows offering unspoiled views of the Chihuahuan Desert and Davis Mountains. Tapped for finishing touches, Alexander Marchant provided handcrafted door hardware from Idaho-based manufacturer and foundry Sun Valley Bronze.
FEATURED PRODUCTS: Sun Valley Bronze Contemporary Collection door hardware with Elle lever in dark grey/black patina finish.
Architect: Lake|Flato Architects
Builder: Pilgrim Building Company
Rammed Earth: Enabler Austin
Landscape Architecture: Ten Eyck Landscape Architects
Photography: Casey Dunn