Montecito Residence / OSKA Architects

Architects: Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects
Location: Montecito, CA, USA
Principal in Charge: Tom Kundig
Year: 2008
Photographs: Tim Bies/Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects

Montecito Residence is a single-family home set in the fire-prone Toro Canyon. The owners wanted a house that minimized its use of scarce natural resources and recognized the challenging environmental conditions of the area. The design solution is a house that functions as an umbrella to shield the house from the sun and allows naturally cool offshore breezes to move through the space. The house is made of simple, fire resistant materials. will be allowed to oxidize and will be toned to allow the house to blend into the landscape.

Cite: "Montecito Residence / OSKA Architects" 20 May 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • Benjamin

    sleek straight lines are very commanding. rather standard house, but makes a statement with it’s strong features..

  • dpd

    agree, rather simple house, very clear plan structure ant only several details and choosen material makes this house extraordinaire

  • Bo Lucky

    Form over function… extremely inapt layout design dressed in nice(?) shapes/materials. Sorry…

  • INawe

    its like a continued addition to the modern case study houses of california (albeit more than 50 years later.) maybe we can still get julius shulman to take some photographs of it. ;)

    i like the twist of its forced perspective lines which make it quite dramatic. in terms of its materiality it is a bit 1990′s but i still can appreciate the beautiful blending into the landscape.

  • INawe


    i don’t see anything wrong with the floorplan. the mastersuite layout looks very functional. the long corridor to the other two bedrooms may have been done on purpose for privacy from either children or house guests. from the scale of the bed in that first bedroom it feels like a good scale and you may be underestimating the size of these rooms. its a 3 bedroom house open to the landscape (which looks like it still needs to be planted) and has an amazing view that is some prime real estate. remember its still california and it never gets cold so you can’t forget to include outdoor spaces as “living rooms”

    sorry for my little rant. i’m a little amped up for today… lots of deadlines and exhibitions starting this week.

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  • theDude

    Fantastic building in space, a long corridor between front door and living/ dining though…
    Bedrooms near front door, maybe cld have had bathrooms with windows instead of being internal.
    Anyhow, nice building…

  • jlbr

    Nice design, although it looks like MANY of the residential projects done by OSKA architects in the past. Visit their website and check for yourselves.

    I guess this is what you would call design-branding?

    I myself have always liked OSKA but they should be thinking about experimenting a bit every once in a while, no?

  • Bo Lucky

    Found awkward in the layout design:
    1. Access to mastersuit through the dining area.
    2. Location of a kitchen away from windows (artificial lighting required)
    3. Poor connection of kitchen with a garage (groceries delivery)
    4. Poorly designed main entrance (where is it? next to the bedroom?)
    5. With so much desing freedom, every room should have a window for natural light and ventilation. It’s more comfortable and energy efficient this way.

  • Fino

    Seems like a nice inexpensive retreat. The proportions are stunning, and there doesn’t seem to be a loss in quality by the exposed features. In fact, I think that what makes this home so elegant. Oh, and I think this house is passively designed in the most excellent of ways. Look back at the pictures, think about its location, how the house protects itself, and re-evaluate your comments about “efficieny”. A large, or any size window in every room does NOT make anything more efficient. In most locations, that’s probably the worst thing you can do.

    that is all.

  • francis

    This building does suffer from a poor layout and design decisions given the topography. I wonder if the controversial proposal private residence of U2′s “Edge” is anywhere near this? I digress …
    jblr – I agree that a “brand” of architecture is dogmatically applied here. Performance wise, I see the extensive use of steel, sheet metal and glass are adverse to the interior under the Californian sun (equally adverse for cold). Well, there is that fancy device to open the upper panel above the door for ventilation, but why create the problems in the first? I’m going to guess it is pretty hot in this house even with all the doors/windows/walls open. Bit of an oven-effect, not including solar gain on the glass.
    Bo – please look at the photo of the house from the pool, and tell me how much light is entering the kitchen? Sorry but you sound like the local authority planning guys that is so out of their depth with Architecture but just wouldn’t pass anything that is not regulations. Aren’t you? I’ve surely met you. So, what’s is the optimum energy value for such a house, Bo? Figures please?

  • me

    only like the first picture

  • antonieta

    looks like a springboard…

  • Bo Lucky

    @ Fino
    Energy efficiency is not measured by a number/size of windows but by a consumption of energy. A window of appropriate size and properties reduces need for artificial lighting and mechanical ventilation (and your monthly bills… and it’s better for the environment). It’s just common sense.

    @ francis
    No… I’m not a “regulations guy” (sorry if you’re disappointed)… this is just common sense… if a kitchen layout forces a cook to work approx. 10-12′ from a source of natural light located behind his/her back, it’s not a good design to me as an architect and/or a cook…

  • Fino

    @Bo Lucky

    Artificial lighting has nothing to do with it. It’s the heat that comes the extreme sun angles of the east, and more crucially the west. There would be a limit on glazing on these sides, and the home would benefit better with northern glazing and protected southern glazing, thus you would locate bedrooms and the most occupied portions of the house on the northern side. Number/size/location of windows IS a crucial factor to energy efficiency. Now that’s common sense

    that is all.

  • Bo Lucky

    Now… read what you wrote, apply this to the building we are talking about and let me know of your conclusion.

    that’s not all

  • kupula

    Bo, I think you are confusing the kitchen for what looks like a laundry room. The kitchen faces a huge glass wall and a great view.

  • francis

    Bo – and now you’re a cook as well. You must be a legend in your own hands. Definitely the “regulations” guy because you have the “common” sense.

  • Bo Lucky

    Misplaced irony – looks like you have no more to say about the building…

  • Fino


    Why should I when you initially described a house that has glass all around it, which obviously doesn’t apply to this particular project. Now, if you want to get back to this project, it is limiting the amount of direct sunlight without eliminating views. Shade=good. Shade=cooler temperatures of the interior. By looking at the pictures, the house obviously gets it’s fair share of ambient lighting so why is artificial lighting a concern? The house obviously takes care of this.

    that is all

  • francis

    Bo – I’m amazed at how you can see things beyond what is presented to us; that’s ironic! There is not nothing else to say about the Montecito Residence from the photos and plan unless I’ve visited or given the tour.

  • francis

    Bo – did you say “a source of natural light located behind his/her back”?

  • Terry Glenn Phipps

    Well here one of the great problems is clearly illustrated in the denouement and eventual devolution of discussion and criticism into an adolescent pissing match. The more enduring problem is INawes and JLBR’s commentary – that being the concept that formal invention should be prized over the development and evolution of a logical visual language. That isn’t architectural branding, it is coherent artistic expression.

    This work is outstanding as is almost everything that comes out the OSKA practice. If this represents the evolution of case study architecture (and in a certain sense it certainly does) then I would posit that the values that John Entenza proposed for domestic architecture are absolutely worth emulating.

    The yeah-but sniping is just depressing. There is no perfect fusion of form and function. Every structure makes concessions to its program, to its site, to its client, and finally to its form.

    Even architects whose language was/is seemingly idiosyncratic on a project by project basis (I am thinking of John Lautner and Helene Arahuete) follow a bright line or lingua franca of material expression. There is nothing wrong with that, it is an asset not a liability.

    Terry Glenn Phipps

  • Bo Lucky

    Thanks for joining… by the way – hasn’t FLW said: “Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.”? Whatever is being said about him, he was a Great Architect…

  • INawe


    Seems like most of the the issues i started and questions you asked were addressed somewhat. I will agree garage connection to kitchen is a little awkward (walking through pantry/laundry room from what i can make out) but other than that i think the natural lighting in the kitchen along with the rest of the house isn’t an issue. The kitchen has glass all along the southern facade and on the east side the late afternoon lights are blocked out by the large over hangs in the living area. I did see someone mention better “efficiency” by having glazing on the northern facades but i feel like that is only true if you are going to have central air all day. This setup is better for natural heating and lighting. As for natural ventilation i think that it could possibly work with a few windows and sliding doors open but that is a slippery slope.

    anyways, i’m done for the day. if any of you live in san diego the 9 Architects Mix is opening tomorrow at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. Should be a lot of fun. :)

  • 影子绝对零度

    I am a building amateur, today first saw this beautiful house in here,thereupon I attempted on Google Earth look for it and the floweredseveral minute hands to find it, now I its Google Earth latitude andlongitude coordinates (34°26′ 43.34″ N 119°33′29.53″ W) issues has the interest to have a look

  • utopianrobot

    regarding the case study houses, i understood them to be more about prefabrication and use of inexpensive materials to produce mass housing. this looks more like an incredibly expensive seasonal residence that captures views of the ocean. i don’t really see anything particularly inventive. this is more like a mies van de rohe structure than the playful and optimistic experiments of the eames for example. as for it being part of the harsh landscape, i agree, the steel is an apt metaphor and practicality, but i would have reduced the amount of glazing by at least half and relied more on a soft exterior landscape to engage the surrounding vistas (even at the expensive of a potential fire). i think if the use of rammed earth or some other site specific materials would be more inventive or interesting.

  • francis

    “Coherent artistic expression” … doesn’t that apply to almost everything? And if you do this x-number of times, it becomes a brand (loosely). I feel “expression” should be more robustly challenged and technically precise. This house reminds me of R. Serra’s obsession with COR-TEN steel – it is his trademark. There I am doubtful that it is an asset to a house, for where it is more an asset is in a shipyard, as that is where Serra had expressed his inspiration for the use of steel sheet was acquired.

  • Comitant

    I agree with Bo. I would want a window over my sink, reducing glare.

    As for the sheared trapezoid plan…why isn’t there a garden space in the pocket formed? The dining room should open onto this outdoor pocket, making the hallway somewhat useful. I’d invert the kitchen-fireplace in plan. This would make the fireplace area more enclosed, maybe even heating the internal walls, and give more light to the kitchen.

  • jlbr

    At Terry Glenn Phipps: The line dividing “coherent artistic expression” and design-branding could very well be, quite thin. The judgment and critique of an architect’s ouvre is, undoubtedly, a subjective action, and the concept of “coherent artistic expression”, while we are at it, seems to me to be a rather vague and intangible expression, while design-branding, on the other hand, is an undeniable phenomenon, the case of say, Frank Gehry, being an obvious one and whether that is the case of OSKA architects or not, is open to discussion.

    While I admire the work of OSKA A LOT, I was merely putting forth the idea that they do seem to be, in my very humble opinion, sometimes falling into a certain practice of using many of the same elements, materials and visual language for their projects, and I guess that OSKA archs. being full of obviously talented people, and me admiring their work, was expecting to see a challenging and novel architectural concept that i had not seen before from them. I was being too demanding and smug, but “Yeah but sniping”, however, is not my attitude at all, and you completely misunderstood it.

    To put it more literally, Hammer House, Hill House, and Montecito and Rolling Huts projects by OSKA (for instance) seem, IMHO, to be speaking a very similar lingua franca, especially for the “thrust-out” roof elements, and laying out underneath rather orthogonal rooms, similitude in materials,etc.