AFASE Solar House / Scottsdale

Solar House (1957) by Peter Lee



In 1954, a group of Arizona politicians, business leaders and Arizona State University joined forces with the Stanford Research Institute to form the Association for Applied Solar Energy (AFASE). The mission was to promote research and investment in solar energy. They held symposiums, exhibitions and sponsored architecture and design competitions. 

This included a 1957 competition called Living with the Sun. Architects submitted designs for a solar house that would be built in Phoenix. Concepts were submitted by Paolo Soleri, Victor Olgyay, Davis, Brody and Wisniewski, and Leland Lewis Evison. The prize-winning design was awarded to University of Minnesota School of Architecture senior, Peter Lee

Image: ASU via A House in the Sun: Modern Architecture and Solar Energy in the Cold War by Daniel A. Barber

Image: ASU via A House in the Sun: Modern Architecture and Solar Energy in the Cold War by Daniel A. Barber

Lee was a student of Ralph Rapson, who was the Dean of the architecture department at the time. Rapson's Case Study #4 was seen as a big influence in Lee's design since it mirrored an interior courtyard Rapson referred to as the “Greenbelt.”


Image: Ralph Rapson: Sixty Years of Modern Design


Completed in April 1958, Lee's design consisted of two volumes separated by an open courtyard. Manually-operated solar louver-collectors were used to store heat or block it, depending on the time of year. 

Image: ASU via A House in the Sun: Modern Architecture and Solar Energy in the Cold War by Daniel A. Barber

According to a 1958 magazine article... Heat is collected by long, aluminum louver shells stretched on wooden frames. Dacron batting insulates the aluminum, and blackened copper Tube-in-Strip rests on the batting. The copper absorbs the sun's heat, transferring it to the water that circulates through its small tubes. 

Image: ASU via A House in the Sun: Modern Architecture and Solar Energy in the Cold War by Daniel A. Barber

A retired couple from Iowa purchased the home. Less than six months later, they filed a lawsuit to get the money they had paid off to that point back, because many of the systems did not function as advertised. The solar components were eventually removed from the house. 

Image: ASU via  A House in the Sun: Modern Architecture and Solar Energy in the Cold War by Daniel A. Barber

To say the house has seen better days is a bit of an understatement. Although the steel beams which once held the louvers are still there, it has suffered from years of neglect, bad additions and when I peeked inside, the walls were covered with mirrors.  



Last month it sold for $500k. The listing reads "Designed by Architects competing for National solar-power project in 1955-1958. Original build in 1958. Needs a full remodel or potential tear down. Built with steel, glass and concrete." Let's hope the new owner has some sense and restores this poor thing. 


I posted a photo of the house on Instagram and a couple of people left some comments about the house...

Rumor has it that it was a “cat house” for decades. - mr.shuffles

It was. I don't think it was for decades, but it did happen. I grew up like 5 houses over. I remeber when they raided those houses (there were at least 2) prostitutes running thru peoples yards trying to get away. That house has always been at the center of so many neighborhood stories. I've sadly never seen the inside, but I've always been curious. I heard that many of the inside walls were glass, curtains were built in the inside walls to be drawn for privacy.robotic_tree