The average price for a new construction home in the US in 2017 was $282,853. A typical single-family home goes from a plot of land to four walls of move-in ready space in about seven months. Along the way, the process taps at least two dozen different tradesmen & women and generates around eight thousand pounds of waste. For most people that’s all well and good (except for the waste part) and relatively affordable. Who has the time to build their own home anyway? Trust the people with the skills and have ’em call you when it’s done, right?
If you’re New Mexico artist Gagoghs, you look at your $18,000 budget, your own two hands and say “f$*k all that, I’ll just do it myself.” Four walls? Why not three? The Triangle House may have been born of necessity, but it quickly became Gagoghs’s greatest artistic achievement.
No, Gagoghs is not his real name. But he is a real dude. And a real badass. Save a few exceptions (electrical by Buffalo Solar), every cut, nail, and every slab of concrete was run through the saw, driven home, or poured by Gagoghs himself. So yeah. Badass.
A former Los Angeleno turned high desert dweller, Gagoghs mentions he has no formal training in the construction trade, which makes the fact he built a house alone even more insane. His days in Los Angeles were spent working in the display department at Urban Outfitters, which served as his intro to the trade. “I found I just had a knack for precision, and could easily see in my head how something needed to look in the end,” he says.
As life tends to do, it eventually whisked Gagoghs away from LA to Philadelphia. He remodeled a house in Philly, but before long felt the pull of The West again. “We had stopped through Taos while moving to Philadelphia,” Gagoghs says. “We couldn’t get it out of our minds.” Not surprisingly, the price to buy a home in Taos was relatively WAY EFFING CHEAPER than LA or Philadelphia. He bought an old rundown earthship that needed a lot of love and got to work. He fixed the place up, built an addition featuring complex concrete pours (self-taught on the job, because duh), and honed his skills a little more.
I’ve never been there myself (yet), but Taos is a pretty magical place from what I’ve gathered. It’s the kind of place where if you’re an absentee homeowner and don’t hire a caretaker, you may come back to find a nest of hippies shacking up in your spot. It’s the kind of place where you can secure ownership of a plot of land by care-taking someone else’s property against said roving hippies & squatters. It’s the kind of place where you can literally eschew your own name, say “F$*k the world, I’m Gagoghs now,” and everyone’s like “Tight.” It’s the kind of place that’s so isolated that if you’re entertaining some dillhole in Minneapolis’s fancy to interview you, you drive to a stretch of road in the middle of nowhere to get cell reception and kick back on the phone while elk pass you by indifferently.
I’ve always been one to feel the pull of The West, and every time I make a trip out that way, I have a real hard time coming back. So help me when I finally make it out to Taos. I can feel the vortex from here.
One of the trades that was completely skipped in the building of Triangle House was an architect. Exactly zero sketches, drawings, blueprints, or renderings of the house were made. Zero. It all existed upstairs in Gagoghs’s head, perfectly rendered and ready to be translated into reality. Why a triangle, you ask? “I just wanted to do something unique,” he says. Well he did that, while also guaranteeing that almost every cut along the way would be custom.
Over the years prior, Gagoghs had collected building materials from Craigslist, architectural salvage vendors, and by “finding shit out in the woods.” Once a plot of land was secured, he rolled up his sleeves, measured 32 foot sides, 60 degree angles, and started pouring concrete. Framing the house alone “was one of the biggest challenges of the whole project,” he says. “Everything had to be dead square, and dead plumb,” which of course all had to start with a perfectly level slab.
Concrete slab down & cured, so began an 18-month grind of daily solo work, one cut at a time. You know how walls are normally framed, where it’s built on the ground then raised up and fixed in place? Yeah, you can’t do that alone. Gagoghs was literally building from the ground up, consulting those drawings in his head along the way. Problems that arose required making adjustments. “But everything pretty much went according to how I envisioned it,” Gagoghs says.
Fast forward thru those 18 months of building, framing, and the daily grind, and Gagoghs was on the home stretch, ready to build the interior rooms and move in. Exhausted from a year and a half of non-stop building, it was time for a relief pitcher.
Cue my brother Sam. “I knew the bathroom needed to be here, the kitchen over there, and the living room there,” Gagoghs says, but he only had a basic idea of the interior’s design. Gagoghs and Sam collaborated to finish the place in style. “We worked six days a week for three months,” Sam said. “It was flawless, we really brought out the best in each other.”
Aside from plywood sheeting and framing lumber, all of the building materials making up Triangle House are reclaimed or recycled. Remember those years of Craigslisting, architectural salvaging, and back-woods scavenging? Well it paid off, helping to make an $18k budget a reality. Working with reclaimed materials also introduced some other challenges. When nearly all of your materials are reclaimed, you end up having small quantities of lots of different stuff. This is great to add variety, but Sam mentions it could have quickly gone very wrong. “We didn’t want the house to look like a set from Mad Max or a steampunk movie,” he says. “We had to disguise a lot of our materials simply because they were so random. If you’re using an old bed frame to use for your shower wall, you want it to look like a shower wall. We didn’t always try to draw attention to the fact that things were reclaimed. Fully integrating those items into a modern design was such cool challenge. We both have a very clean aesthetic, so getting everything to work in a graphic way was really exciting.”
With the interior of the main level complete, all that’s left is to finish the upstairs living space and some outdoor landscaping. With such an incredible house nearly complete in a town that’s a major tourist destination, Gagoghs admits he could easily make good money renting the space. But that’s not what it’s about for him. “I just love my energy in this space too much to give it up to random people,” he says. “Who knows, maybe one day it can be a museum with all my artwork on display after I’m long dead.”
Museum or not, income-generating or not, who cares? Triangle House is a feat of artistry & self-sufficiency to be sure, but at the end of the day it’s just three walls that house the spirit of a guy who wasn’t out to prove something, but who couldn’t resist the challenge of doing something truly unique & seemingly impossible.