Architect / Firm: Alan Nicholson Design Studio
Located in the coastal hills of Mendocino County and designed for two retired geo-physicists, the 2750 sq. ft. residence was conceived as a sheltering nest with wings to lift the heart and water to anchor and reflect the earth. The cantilevered roof is supported by two internal columns to give an economy of structure. The house is sited to wrap around an excavated rock-knoll and follows the contours of the land and solar orientation. It is energy independent and efficient; incorporating active solar panel technologies for power and heating, and passive design for sustainable comfort.
A long cantilevered shed roof gathers and gives flight to the structure, opening to the landscape and embracing the 270 degree view. Concrete, rammed earth, glass, steel, wood and water are employed to enhance the connection between the building, and the surrounding landscape.
In a carefully choreographed entry sequence, the massive rammed earth entry walls part to reveal folded full height glazed walls enveloping central living, dining, and kitchen areas, with circulation following the layered earthen walls. The solid eight-foot-high entry walls are capped with two feet of butt-glazed curtain wall along the entire 100-foot length of rammed earth, to give the roof plane an airy, floating character. The curtain walls are a unique custom-designed,
thermally broken glazing system. In the living and sleeping areas the curtain wall is integrated into a floor to roof vertical steel assembly to reduce mullion size and support the floating roof.
The structural system is designed to complement and strengthen the architectural emphasis of lightness and flight. By utilizing a steel frame and streamlining structural systems, the design minimizes material consumption and allows for maximum performance. The curtain wall construction of the south and east walls utilize a custom vertical truss system with cast-steel web struts. The roof system, is framed with very light steel shapes held in plane by three-dimensional cable-stayed trusses and the custom cast-steel web struts, allowing the roof a long clear span, floating on the glass walls. To further integrate the house to its site, the north wall of the house floats in a 70 foot reflecting pool. The south terrace is stepped to eliminate railings and provide a lower lap pool terrace. The owners’ intent is to restore indigenous, native meadows, an olive orchard and a kitchen garden