The third Arts & Architecture Case Study House has a noticeably different sensibility to that of many of the other designs in the series. While equally engaged with the goal of maximizing enjoyment of the natural surroundings, in this design the architects show more concern for privacy and protection.
The approach from the street is somewhat forbidding; aluminum siding presents an impenetrable front. Besides the front and garage doors, the small, high kitchen windows are the only visible openings, though it is possible to peer over the fence of grape stakes into the children’s private garden.
Once through the front entrance, the space suddenly becomes welcoming, opening on each side into the living and sleeping quarters, with glass sliding doors opposite inviting one to step out into the back garden (which is surrounded by the wild canyon landscape). This room was conceived as an “enclosed porch” rather than a formal room, with both the terracotta flooring (extending to the terrace beyond) and louvered skylight emphasizing the outdoors. Functionally, however, it operates as both a connection and a buffer between the two wings of the H-shaped house, and as an informal living room.
The room’s wooden paneling links it to the living room located to the left, which provides ample space for entertaining and access to the kitchen and workroom (a utility room large enough to accommodate hobby work), as well as a toilet—a useful detail considering how efficiently this half of the house has been separated from the bathrooms! This living room opens on two sides to the paved area, encouraging outdoor entertainment.
Over in the bedroom wing, a narrow hallway separates the parents’ room from the children, who also have their own shared, but fully enclosed, garden. The master bedroom opens onto the larger garden that extends right around the house.
Despite the vast glass doors and the attention paid to echoing the natural surroundings with the choice of materials and colors (ranging from coral to deep blue-green, reflecting the clay soil and trees, supported by rough linen and beige carpets), this house seems less comfortable in its spectacular environment than other Case Study homes—those by Richard Neutra, for example, or the #2 house by Spaulding and Rex. Rather than embracing the canyon, it huddles under it. This might actually make the design better suited than the others to being transplanted to a different location, one with less natural privacy.