Project Description2006 CHDA
Custom Home Less Than 3,000 Square Feet / Merit Award
Sometimes an architect's highest calling is to lead clients away from what they think they want and toward something they could not have imagined on their own. That seems to have been the case in this project. What began in its owners' minds as a traditional Spanish-style house evolved in the design process into the sleek, sod-roofed compound you see here. What made the difference—apart from a persuasive architect—was the owners' attachment to the site, a high ridge with groves of mature oaks. To save the landscape without sacrificing views or livability, architect Jonathan Feldman dug the building into the hillside, lining most of the downhill walls with glass and breaking the house into pavilions that define sheltered outdoor living spaces.
One approaches the house from the uphill side, descending from roof level to an upper-level entry at the central pavilion. An interior stair descends another flight into the main living space. The master suite occupies a semi-detached pavilion a half-flight up from this common area. Guest quarters face the main building across a courtyard centered on a massive outdoor fireplace. From the exterior, the architecture is defined by nearly flat sod roofs and the exposed timber structure that supports them. Interior finishes are appealingly raw: concrete floors, exposed wood and steel framing, fireplaces faced in Corten steel. Concrete retaining walls exposed at the interior bear the wood-grain imprint of their board forms. Every surface reinforces the impression of a building that grew out of the earth. The effect was not lost on our judges, who noted the project's remarkably successful integration of site and architecture.