The Modernist Franklin Mountain House Stands Out in the Rio Grande

Franklin Mountain House, cuts quite a solitary figure at its high position in the Rio Grande river valley, Texas. Designed by Hazelbaker Rush architects in 2015, the house is situated in the Franklins Foothills, on a sheer hillside 800 feet above El Paso.

Such steep surroundings give the three-storey house the opportunity to interact with the exterior on each of the home’s three levels: utility, living/entertainment and private sleeping areas. This is especially notable on the middle floor with its wide, open plan and spacious living area.


For the base, the architects have worked with materials that clearly blend with the surrounding terrain, with rocks assembled loosely around the edge and cut into neat cuboid structures for both the border walls and the lower floor.

Comprised of local basalt grey stone, the lower mass almost melts into the rough craggy landscape, all the better to catch the passing wildlife (red tailed hawks, golden eagles, deer and rabbits and all kinds of flora and fauna). The design and choice of materials were also specifically chosen to correspond to the vernacular design of El Paso.

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Meanwhile, this is juxtaposed by an upper floor which does anything but blend in: a sheer white rectangular structure for the second floor, which is supported on typical modernist pilotis.

Unlike the typical modernist home, however, the upper floor features relatively few windows, thereby accentuating the block of white from each side and making it stand out from a great distance.


With that said, the design more than makes up for lack of windows by their clever integration with the built-in fixtures. This is most notable in the large built-in shelving unit, in the middle of which is a long thin window that offers incredible views of El Paso, as well as the brilliant colours of the fading sunset later in the day. This alone makes the Franklin Mountain House quite an impressive specimen.

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Photos by Casey Dunn