Architect In Charge: Joshua Aidlin, Peter Larsen, Michael Pierry
General Contractor: Semmes and Company Builders, Turko Semmes
Structural Engineer: Berkeley Structural Design, Bill Lynch
Civil Engineer: Geo-West, Barak Miles
Landscape Design / Build: Madrone Landscape, Rick Mathews
Text description provided by the architects. This rural home sits on an 80-acre agricultural site in California's Central Coast wine region. From the plan layout to the assembly details, the building responds to the extreme climate of its desert locale, to the social dynamic of an extended family, and to the indoor-outdoor continuity of rural life.
The making of the home is grounded in the primal act of masonry walling. Concrete block walls create the spatial, social, and ecological organization of the building. Masonry was chosen for its elemental presence, its link to historic building traditions, and its visual and textural harmony with the surrounding natural environment. These walls create the primary spaces of the home, defining private and public zones and anchoring them into the land. Their vectoral arrangement structures views outward, framing distant landmarks to provide orientation within the landscape, while their tough muscularity provides both physical and psychological shelter.
The design organizes domestic activity around the passage of the sun throughout the day, choreographing the quotidian rhythm of life on the land. This rhythm - and the plan of the building - is centered around a covered outdoor living and dining room, the heart of the home and the hub of family activity.Open interior living spaces adjoin the outdoor living zone, creating comfortable and casual gathering spaces for both the small nuclear family and larger extended-family groups. Removed from the primary living zone, intimate bedrooms offer privacy and retreat when desired, each with its own separate outdoor domain.
In addition to creating an enjoyable rural retreat, the house was designed with ecological responsibility as a principal goal. Despite summer temperatures soaring to 115 degrees, the house was built without air conditioning. A combination of thermal mass, building orientation, shading devices, and intelligent ventilation (borrowing the “night cooling” concept from area wineries) allows a bright, open home that remains comfortable throughout the day and throughout the year. This energy-efficient performance allows solar photovoltaic and thermal panels to provide electricity, space heating, and hot water.
The design team approached sustainability as more than simply a checklist of aggregated features.One of our guiding principles was the simultaneous performance of multiple functions by a single design element, achieving maximum benefit from minimal means. Beyond mere efficiency, this multiplicity ensures that each component is elemental and meaningful. Ecologically responsible decisions are integrated throughout the design, making sustainability a deeply-embedded and inseparable quality of the completed project.