Architects: WA Design Inc
Location: Berkeley, California, USA
Design Team: David Stark Wilson, Chris Parlette, Frank Eyerly, Tom Peebles, Angela Wong
Consultants: SDC (engineering); Artistic (lighting); Meline Engineering (mechanical)
Landscape Design: WA design
Project Area: 4,880 sqf
Photographs: Courtesy of WA Design Inc
The clients for this Berkeley Hills home were a prominent scientist and his wife. They had recently moved from the east coast and purchased another home I had designed. After a few years in the home, they contacted me to explore their inspiration of building their own home start to finish. We looked for land together and eventually they purchased a double lot with spectacular views in the sloping hills of the East Bay.
The most basic primordial relationship of water and canyon wall was the metaphorical origin for the layout of the home. The water is constrained by the topography and yet needs an outlet. Each material and force yields to the other. At each end of our zinc canyon, at the outlets, a courtyard would naturally form, one towards the hillside and protected from the wind, the other towards the west, hanging, completely open to the views and the winds of the Bay Area.
Our concept was to create three wings connected by two breezeways, one open air breezeway and one glazed. The transparent breezeways allow views out of the courtyard and their low roof lines accentuate the massing of the primary building elements. Set perpendicular to the glazed breezeway are two water features that appear to extend through the home and axially emphasize the view towards San Francisco Bay. Punctuating the hillside end of this water axis is a monolithic outdoor fireplace. Breaking the house into three distinct units allowed us to create three distinct courtyards, two protected and one open to the almost constant onshore fog and breezes from San Francisco Bay. The courtyard between the main house and guest house is protected enough for comfortable twilight dining a good part of the year. The house’s exterior is alternately sheathed in zinc shingles, reminiscent of the craftsman architecture a century earlier, or stucco. We designed strongly canted shed roofs with deep eaves and delicate structural steel supports to give the house a distinctive look and provide protected exterior circulation and ample surface area for the extensive photo-voltaic arrays that power the house.
The hardscape is minimalist with white concrete extending seamlessly from inside the house and granite cobble bands set to the rhythm of the homes structural steel frame. The construction module of the home is literally encountered at street edge as you step across the first band of black granite cobbles. A progression begins. The landscape plantings are set on a rigorous grid behind low retaining walls of Cor-ten steel and further extend the strong organization of the building architecture onto the site.