Architects are taking rammed-earth home design far beyond the dirt-plain adobe look—creating walls that are almost sculptural in their complexity and scale.

It took 300 tons of decomposed granite to build the 72-foot-long rammed-earth wall that forms the spine of Linda Low’s 7,800-square-foot home in Scottsdale, Ariz. Light from a narrow, 110-foot-long skylight—diffused by reflective silver-leaf panels—plays on the wall, which sparkles with bits of mica. “At any time of the day, I can look at it and see something different—and it’s never the same any day,” said Ms. Low, 72, who built the house on 10 acres with her husband, Mickey. “It gives me a sense of tranquility.”

Ms. Low estimates that they spent close to $2 million on the 1997 compound—designed by architect Eddie Jones and rammed-earth builder Quentin Branch.

She recently put the house on the market, but then took it off—after turning down an offer that was more than double the cost to build, she said. “I just decided I’m not selling—I love this house too much,” she said.


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