AIA Award

2013 AIA Top Honor Award- Acido Dorado and Rosa Muerta

Photography – Saint Laurent campaign

Video shot by Nathalie Canguilhem and Anthony Vaccarello with Travis Scott, Vittoria Ceretti, Steffy Argelich

Photography – Steven Klein / Vogue

Steven Klein shot Karlie Kloss for Vogue

Photography – Mert & Marcus / Cavalli

Mert & Marcus shot Mariacarla Boscono, Heidi Klum, and Angela Lindval at Acido Dorado for Roberto Cavalli.

Photography – Mariano Vivianco for Harpers Bazaar

Mariano Vivianco shot Joan Smalls shot for Harpers Bazaar at Acido Dorado

Photography – Michele Laurita / Sorbet / Saint Laurent 2017

Michele Laurita shot Celia Becker for Sorbet in Yves Saint Laurent 2017


Photography – Camilla Akrans / Bazaar

Camilla Akrans fashion editorial for Harpers Bazaar with Karlina Caune

Photography – Melina Matsoukas / Beyonce & JayZ

Melina Matsoukas project at Rosa Muerta with Beyonce and Jay Z

Photography – Jack Pierson / Another

Taschen Architecture Now book

Los Angeles Times – Acido Dorado

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ALL THAT GLITTERS- Robert Stone conjures a golden mirage in the high-desert landscape of Joshua Tree

by Mayer Rus

Forget midcentury modern. Forget deconstructivism, expressionism and all the other convenient “isms” that have traditionally been applied to the discussion of architecture. Robert Stone is far more interested in the stories buildings tell, the personal and cultural iconography they manifest and, yes, even the feelings they evoke. “I’m proposing something a little more demanding than a new aesthetic. I’m not saying, ‘This shape is cool’ or ‘Stacked boxes are in, and slanty walls are out.’ I’m asking people to think about how architecture works and what makes it meaningful,” says the LA-based Stone.

Acido Dorado is a trippy place. With its gold-mirrored ceiling and walls, heart-shape concrete-block cutout and gilded cage of twisted metal rods strung with wrought-iron flowers, the house seems an alien-albeit strangely congruous-presence in the parched high-desert panorama of Joshua Tree. Think Guns N’ Roses and Lost in Space…or 2001: A Cocaine Odyssey…or Zeus visiting desert Danae in a shower of gold. Think golden showers.

In fact, think whatever comes to mind. Stone eschews fixed meanings and revels in multiple interpretations and gut reactions. “Architecture should support what people bring to it,” he insists. “My work asks viewers to look inward. I’m telling people that they already get it-they just need to be open to it.” Acido Dorado-“golden acid” in Spanish-is Stone’s second rental house in the Coachella Valley, a short distance from Rosa Muerta, his black-shrouded groovy-Gucci-goth fantasy. The architect gave these seriously alluring follies Spanish names both as an earnest nod to the pervasive Latino culture of Southern California and a tongue-in-cheek riff on the common practice among developers of using foreign names to ennoble their often shabby properties with a gloss of romance and mystery.

When pressed to describe the physical form of Acido Dorado and the materials he employed, Stone instead weaves a tapestry of personal inspirations: military hardware, burned-out houses, Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, preppy, BMX, Versace fall 2009, Gordon Matta-Clark, Ed Ruscha, Hedi Slimane, lowriders, sandstorms, macrame, drugs, roadside death shrines, classic desert modernism, evil corporate modernism, Robert Smithson’s Mirror Displacements, Robert Morris’ brutal minimalism and empty pools.

“Everyone has their own obsessions. I admit mine and try to incorporate them into my architecture rather than dressing them up in abstract language,” Stone says.

While many architects disparage fashion as a frivolous discipline lacking the gravitas of the heroic builder, Stone celebrates couture without apology. “I think that capturing a moment in time and transforming it into something profound is the hardest thing to do. Fashion designers talk about their work as a personal response to the world around them. Down the road, we see some of the things they create as era-defining,” he avers. “Architecture is a person’s life-a lens that opens up new possibilities. And yet architects aren’t trained to trust their gut.”

If Stone sounds skeptical about traditional architectural education and discourse, it’s because he is. Rather than taking the established path of internship and enslavement in a professional office, followed by the opening of an independent practice and the requisite hat-in-hand courting of clients to build a portfolio, he decided simply to go to the desert and make architecture-with his own two hands. “I appreciate the directness of building by hand,” he says, “whether it be digging ditches or fashioning metal roses. The DIY thing raises the stakes. If I’m going to take three years and put in my own money, then I have to ask myself, What is it going to be?’

This, of course, begs the question, Exactly what is it? Manifesto? Pleasure dome? Provocation? Stone believes it’s all of these things, plus whatever anybody else decides to bring to the glossy, mirror-topped table.

Architectural Digest Special Edition

Cover of the 25 most beautiful houses in the world issue!

Interior Design magazine


A Machine for Dreaming In by Greg Goldin

The environs of Palm Springs, California, can cause architects to abandon structural rigor in favor of insouciant fantasy- picture the buxom assassins Bambi and Thumper pouncing on James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever, under a daisy-wheel John Lautner dome. Now drive half an hour north to the wind-whipped high desert of Joshua Tree, and the fantasy becomes an acid trip. Imagine a golden house, both sharply angular and wildly ornamented, and what you’ve got is Acido Dorado. Built by Robert Stone, a desert native, it’s swankily modern yet suggestively operatic, with 900 gold-painted iron roses, 1,200 mirrored tiles, and a concrete screen with a heart-shape cutout. Mad Men, meet the Ring des Nibelungen.

“Architects see composition and space. Designers see surfaces and textures. I see all of that and more, like cultural connections such as roadside death shrines made out of flowers and Mercedes-Benz parts,” Stone adds. And business opportunities. Acido Dorado is Robert Stone Design’s second Joshua Tree house for Stone’s own vacation-rentaI initiative, Pretty Vacant Properties. Each house begins with its name. Rosa Muerta, his first one, is a dark homage to punks partying in burned-out houses in the 1980’s. At Acido Dorado, those two words are neatly stenciled in white block letters on one of the sloped concrete-block walls that serves as a bulwark against the Mojave Desert’s sandstorms and searing sunlight. Besides being an unabashed reference to an acid trip, a desert rite of passage, Acido Dorado is a send-up of the names chosen to lend cheesy real-estate developments a romantic grandeur. There’s also the literaI meaning of dorado. Inside and out, the house is awash in three shades of gold automotive paint. The sensibility is lowrider.

A single story with a rocky hill rising behind, the structure is surrounded by elaborate steel grilles interrupted by a concrete-block screen. Most of the actual exterior is composed of sliding doors in the gold-coated glass found on anonymous office buildings. Opening these doors creates a pavilion under a flat canopy. It’s held aloft on nine pencil-thin poles of polished stainless steel partially wrapped in gold-glitter vinyl, the kind that BMX riders use on their handlebars. Though the reference is almost comically sexual, ifs undermined by the way the shiny steel disappears into the sandy earth.

Alternate interpretations and optical illusions abound. At first, the gold color overwhelms. After the eyes adjust, it becomes just another shade of the surrounding desert. Much depends on the sliding grilles and doors as well. When they’re closed, the house becomes a solid glittering object.

When they’re open, the line between indoors and out doesn’t just blur. It inverts. Since the floor is sunken nearly 4 feet below grade, and 12-inch mirrored squares cover a large portion of the ceiling and the huge overhangs, the desert becomes a bodily presence hovering above.

The flowers on the grilles have a split personality, too. Obviously, they are phony-metallic gold roses appear in dreams, not nature. But welding wedding-cake decorations onto a strict grid, as Stone did with his own torch, “somehow, irrationally, conveys life,” he says. “In the same way that fashion is not afraid of exploring high and low, neither am I. Something that looks tacky today can look Gucci tomorrow if done right. And after that, who knows? Maybe it will look tacky again.” Of the 10 butterflies welded onto the grilles, amid the roses, one is situated perfectly on the building’s center axis. Stone is wrestling with the ghost of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

Modernism exemplified, the floor plan is a 1,400-square-foot rectangle divided into two squares: an all-in-one living area, dining area, and kitchen and a pair of bedrooms. The latter two rooms, in turn, are twin rectangles sparsely decorated with platform beds and mirrored built-ins. Of course, to butterfly is to split something symmetrically in two. The literaI and the figurative converge.

Wallpaper magazine

This format allows you to walk through the house and see it from viewpoints marked on the plan.

Go here to walk through

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Few modern houses can claim to be the result of a truly personal manifesto. Even fewer can be attributed solely to a single person, from detail drawing through to concrete pouring, brick laying and plumbing. But the Rosa Muerta House, located on the fringes of Joshua Tree in Eastern California, is all of these things. Robert Stone is a singular architect, a man concerned not with following the architectural herd, but with infusing his work with a sense of theatricality, atmosphere and craftsmanship.

Rosa Muerta is a one bedroom house, a low pavilion that makes visual references to everything from Mies van der Rohe to Robert Smithson. ‘My aesthetic basically started from nothing. Just an honest search for a way to make architecture that is more subtle and meaningful to me,’ Stone says. As interested in sub-cultural design expressions like low-riding, ceiling-mounted mirrors and fancy ironwork as he is in minimal art, the house is a collision of craft and culture, entirely hand built by Stone himself.

As a result, the Los Angeles-based architect prefers to exist at the periphery of the modern art world. Stone embraces the complexities and contradictions of contemporary architectural design, creating forms and concepts that occasionally jar or conflict. For Stone, the more juxtapositions the better. ‘Ultimately, my work is very much for others to experience and create meaning with,’ he says, ‘but it begins with personal references simply because that is the only way I know how to work with real subtlety and understanding.’

The plan exploits the arid desert location, focused around an outdoor living room with spa and fire pit, partly open to the sky and surrounded only by the combination of intricate metalwork mesh and black-stained concrete blocks. Above, the canopy roof initially appears to be a direct quote of the Case Study aesthetic, yet is actually carefully mirrored on the underside, reflecting the desert soil and scrub that runs right up to the building line. To be inside is to be outside.

By contrast, the solitary bedroom is a dark, mysterious cave with the bed flanked by planters and a small kitchen, utility area and bathroom located alongside them. There are no definitive reference points, no concessions to fashion and no desire to promote a hollow futurism. Stone seems genuinely aghast at the world of ‘high class luxury aesthetics’, and Rosa Muerta derives its sense of drama and place through a self-conscious theatricality and spatial games. The low culture references are reverential without being patronizing, the ‘trash’ aesthetic of hearts, flowers and mirrors quoted and reappropriated without irony. A truly personal space, embedded in its landscape and set apart from the rat race of modern design.

Mark magazine – Rosa Muerta

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Architect Robert Stone and I are planning my visit to Rosa Muerta, a textured and reflective black mirage, which materializes just east of Joshua Tree in Southern California. In our initial correspondence, Stone tries to illustrate what I’m in for: “The house sits out in the middle of the open desert, overgrown with weeds and grasses like an exquisite burned-out Barcelona Pavilion from another, much sexier universe.”

Several days later, my car thermometer climbs 17 degrees in under three hours, ultimately perching at 40 degrees celsius. Congested Los Angeles freeways give way to dirt roads, steep grades and stretches of dry, uninhabited land. The setting is extraterrestrial, to be sure. And when I finally the integrated threshold from scorched sand to smooth black concrete, indeed I feel I’ve stepped through the looking glass in Barcelona and into Stone’s iridescent, heat-bent and handcrafted galaxy (where I experience and instant drop in temperature under the dramatic overhang).

Reflections of Mies van der Rohe bounce, distorted, from the structure’s chrome columns. They replicate again in the (outdoor) living room’s low, mirrored canopy, which reflects back at the reflecting pool (also a spa) and makes the desert floor a ceiling. But with a nod to the columns, Stone urges me to consider the chrome details of a Mongoose BMX bike as well. Later, the architect alludes to legwarmers (yes, the ‘80’s fashion staple) as he explains how the black rope around each column visually disconnects the straight line of the supporting structure, “to make it float a little more”.

“Clearly, I understand what it means to take a chrome column, and it’s the Barcelona Pavilion- but it’s coming out of the dirt,” Stone says. “It’s not sitting on a plinth; it’s in the desert. I know what the high references are for these things, but there are also ones that are just close to my heart.”

In this way, Rosa Muerta is welded of dichotomous orientation points. It simultaneously quotes from the architecture of textbooks and references the twisted wrought iron of Southern California’s barrios. It borrows heavily from the architect’s personal experiences growing up in Palm Springs. The sunken living room, for instance, is reminiscent of a pool’s shallow end, where Stone says he spent much of his young life “gabbing with friends while everybody was skating”. Stone remarks on the unique view of the world achieved while sitting with his head just above ground level, one arm up, level with the landscape.

“Think of it like language,” Stone says of his aesthetic approach. I can go to Japan and learn how to ask where the train station is, but here I can speak with a kind of poetry and understanding that is much more subtle. That’s what I am after – a way to make architecture that can work culturally in subtle and intricate ways.”

Throughout the long conversation, our voices are punctuated by birdsong, the skittering of a lizard on concrete, and the distant growl of an engine. “I hope you get the dirt bike in the background,” Stone says with a laugh. “That really is the context.” Later, the architect, who writes prolifically of his work, quotes from his notebook: “The desert is awe inspiring and serene in its emptiness. But, just as important is the detritus of modern culture, a bleached out Coors can, or a shotgun shell on the ground, that reminds you that nature and culture cannot be separated.”

I arrived at Rosa Muerta on the heels of a fashion shoot, the only evidence of which remained in thousands of footsteps still littering the desert sand. Rosa Muerta is a public space, but the fingerprints of visitors readily wash off the metal appliances and custom-cast concrete blocks. Physically, the structure does not allow for someone else’s baggage (save for some ashes in the fire pit). “There’s no parking, no garage, no storage.” The nearest neighbour is over 180m away.

And so, Rosa Muerta has seen celebrations that resonated from Joshua Tree all the way to YouTube, but it has also hosted a visitor who spent five days meditating and been the site of a marriage proposal. “There will probably be all these babies named Rosa,” the architect laughs.

Stone says the space was designed for “parties”, but he uses the word as shorthand for the disconnect a visitor might feel in a structure that offers no narrative cues. “The aesthetic being completely original to this place, you come out here and have to reinvent yourself,” Stone says. “Who am I in this little black house?”

Then, after a moment’s thought, he adds: “In America, every community that’s worth a damn has an abandoned house that all the kids know about. And that’s where they go and party. In some ways, I am building that,” he says. “An open space with no adult supervision.”