In December 2022, Judith Chafee’s “Jacobson House” was designated as a Historic Landmark by the Pima County Board of Supervisors and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This past November I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Jacobson House with Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation for their Tucson Modernism week. Judith Chafee is one of my favorite architects and getting to see her design in person was gratifying.
The Jacobson House was designed by Chafee in 1975 for Arthur (Art) and Joan Jacobson. Joan was a practicing weaver and needed space for her weaving, reading, gardening, and other hobbies. Art was a philosopher and needed a workspace as well. Together, they had collected a lot of books which became an important part of the design to include. They knew that Judith would be the architect who could deliver what they wanted.
The outcome became a Modern house with gorgeous views in the Catalina Foothills area of Tucson. Just before the entrance is a rectangular pool looking out at the desert. Once inside, the iconic bookcase stairs prominently leads up to a reading nook. To the left of the staircase is Joan’s weaving room with plenty of sunlight and views of the Santa Catalina mountains. On the other side of the stairs is the main bedroom and bathroom. The left side of the house includes another bathroom, bedroom, yellow kitchen, dining room, and living room. The dining room has outdoor courtyards on both the left and right with sliding doors leading out. Opposite the kitchen is Art’s detached office with its own bathroom as well. In between is an outdoor gardening station complete with a sink and storage.
Beyond the bookcase stairs, other identifying features of this home are the use of concrete floors and beams, glass windows, geometric shapes, and an array of solar panels. These features were to provide great views while including aspects of environmentally responsive designs inspired by the landscape.
For more information on Judith Chafee and the Jacobson House, I recommend reading Powerhouse: The Life and Work of Judith Chafee by Christopher Domin and Kathryn McGuire.
Public Allies Arizona
Arizona Preservation Foundation
Photos by GMVARGAS