Kayenta Development, St. George, Utah

Landscape first.

The area around St. George, Utah contains some of the most remarkable landscapes of the American Southwest.  Zion, and Bryce Canyon  National Parks are nearby. The northern boundary of the city is composed of Red Sandstone cliffs, and a volcanic reserve known as Snow Canyon.  It enjoys a mild winter climate, and very low humidity, which offsets the generally high temperatures in the summer.  In 1980, just out of college, I was employed as a designer for a new development just west of St. George, near the small town of Ivins and the Santa Clara River, to be called Kayenta.  R.T. Marten, the developer and principle designer, had secured 1600 acres of, what was then affectionately described as a worthless, ‘red sand’ wilderness.  We planned a new community, built a water system, designed roads and a new type of desert home, biased towards the landscape and conscious of the environment.  Kayenta became, and still is a groundbreaking project in the annals of environmentally sensitive, large scale, land development.  Many of the principles employed here form the foundation of environmentally sensitive land planning, including topographically designed street systems, without curbs and gutters.  Kayenta's streets do not accelerate storm water, but allow it to gently percolate into the ground.  The homes are designed to  blend into the landscape.  Architecture as camouflage. We instituted design guidelines which insured that homes were designed into the sloping grade, thereby guaranteeing thermal advantages bestowed on earth sheltered homes.  The colors of the homes are limited to the color spectrum of the geology surrounding the site. Landscaping is limited to the absolute minimal disturbance of the native planting existing on the site prior to construction.  Planting in the immediate area around the home must be native plants and can only be watered for the first 2 years after which they need to be fully naturalized.  The only non-native plantings allowed are within the courtyards of the homes themselves.  I came to call these projects, (of which there are now close to 500) ‘Homes in the Key of C’, by which I meant that they all shared a common signature or architectural ‘key’, and that their diversity came through the manipulation of this shared tonal key.  All of the homes done in Kayenta are singular designs based on this ‘key’. By instituting this language, they all ‘blend in’, insuring that the landscape, which drew us all there, remains protected first.



1733 s. La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles, CA. 90035

(310) 280-0193