The deserts of the Southwest are a sandbox for fascinating homes, from Earthships to rocky architectural wonders. So when we found this home for sale in the town of Rio Rico -- a house made of three circles and no windows -- we weren't surprised.
To delve into the domes, we spoke with Connie Maughan, the daughter of the homebuilder, Marion Rice, who recently died. "My father built it as sort of a dream house," says Maughan, who now resides in Colorado. "He wanted to build an underground house -- he was a unique individual."
The home sits on 4 acres of desert and is made of three connected concrete domes: the garage, the living area, and the covered deck. It's now on the market for $73,000.
The windowless two-bedroom, two-bathroom "living circle" measures 1,256 square feet. Although it's topped with soil, the home isn't exactly underground -- it's more of an above-ground "underground" house. Perhaps due to the extra cost of digging underground, especially in the Arizona soil, Rice opted for the next best thing. The center circle, or living area, was built into the side of a hill.
As for the lack of views from the interior, windows "would just be looking out into the dirt," Maughan says.
She's not sure why it was her father's dream to build an underground house, but he was an engineer and an architect who "had his own way of doing things," she says.
In his younger days, he built a home in the mountains of Colorado, but the family had to relocate to the suburbs so his daughters could attend school. As soon as the last daughter finished high school, he took an SUV and turned it into a functional camper, then took off with his wife to spend three months touring Honduras.
"He was one of a kind, definitely one of a kind," Maughan remarks.
He built this home himself over a two-year period, finishing in 1996. According to listing agent Nanci Pottinger-Crowder. "I've sold real estate for 15 years, and I've never had a house this unique," she says.
The roof of the house is "buried," explains Pottinger-Crowder. The earth-sheltered roof and the thick concrete walls keep the three-circle compound cool -- the temperature inside remains in the 70-degree range -- throughout the year.
The home has no central heating or cooling, which made it tough to appraise. An appraiser had to venture 60 miles north to Tucson to find a comparable home, the agent says.
The only area that's open to the blue sky is the large garage/workspace, the front and back doors, and the covered deck, where Rice had planned to put in a pool. The agent says a pool can still be added there, which would be a great place to enjoy the hillside views.
"It makes me feel good, makes me proud, that he did something so unique," says Maughan of her father. "It makes me think that what he's done won't be forgotten."