Master of desert modernism Rick Joy celebrates 25th anniversary with retrospective tome

rich joy amangiri
American architect Rick Joy celebrates his studio’s 25th anniversary in practice with a book that includes a variety of his work, such as the Amangiri Hotel, pictured here.
(Image credit: Photography: Joe Fletcher)

The American desert holds a certain mystique for architects. Where else can you get the emboldening sense of having conquered nature without any need for aesthetic compromise? As a result, the arid expanses of the West are a playground for modernists of all persuasions, from the expressive to the minimal.

Rick Joy started his practice in Tucson, Arizona, in 1993, bringing a crafted, material approach to residential design. Projects like the Desert Nomad House of 2006 were part of a renaissance in desert building, delivering self-sufficiency, simplicity and a light touch on the delicate desert environment without compromising the purity of the scheme. The house was one of the standout projects in Joy’s first monograph, ‘DesertWorks', published in 2002. Now, on the occasion of the studio’s 25th anniversary, a new book has been published, ‘Studio Joy Works’, which charts recent work, much of which is now far removed from his Tucson stamping ground.

the Amangiri Hotel

The tome delves into the practice's work in the American desert and beyond. Pictured here, the Amangiri Hotel. 

(Image credit: Photography: Joe Fletcher)

Featured projects include the Sun Valley House in Idaho, a private retreat arranged as two wings flanking a central courtyard, with rustic stone walls chiselled and chamfered to geometric perfection. Stone is also used in the Woodstock Vermont Farm, this time paired with traditional cedar shingles to create a meticulously precise update of the state’s vernacular farm architecture. There’s plenty of design diversity on display, from the expansive family ranch in New Mexico with its sheet metal roof and shuttered concrete finishes, to the bunker-like minimalism of a vacation retreat in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the chalky minimalism of a loft in New York. 

Joy’s studio has also started to engage in civic works, translating the same asceticism it applies to its private projects into public space. The book features the Princeton Transit Hall and Market, a bold piece of sculptural art that serves the famous college town without kowtowing to the town’s many architectural statements. Joy speaks of ‘cherishing the site’s spirit,’ and the works on display imply a strong sense of place, filtered through an even more rigorous approach to form and detail.

For more desert architecture see more modern buildings in arid environments

amangiri hotel by rick joy

The Amangiri Hotel by Rick Joy is located in Utah 

(Image credit: Photography: Joe Fletcher)

desert nomad rick joy

Also included in the publication is the Desert Nomad house. 

(Image credit: Photography: Jeff Goldberg/Esto)

princeton rick joy

Joy's Princeton Transit Hall and Market was completed earlier this year. 

(Image credit: Photography: Jeff Goldberg/Esto)

Princeton Transit Hall and Market by Rick Joy

The project is located in the famous university town. 

(Image credit: Photography: Jeff Goldberg/Esto)

new york rick joy

Joy's residential work spans a variety of locations, such as New York, with this loft interior. 

(Image credit: Photography: Joe Fletcher)

rick joy turks and caicos

A minimalist home in Turks & Caicos showcases the architect's masterful approach. 

(Image credit: Photography: Joe Fletcher  )

turks and caicos house by rick joy

The project makes for the perfect vacation retreat. 

(Image credit: Photography: Joe Fletcher)


'Studio Joy Works: The architecture of Rick Joy', Princeton Architectural Press, $55. For more information visit the website of Studio Rick Joy

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.