Russian River House
The building design is an outgrowth of the setting in form, material, and detail. The massing of the house is the result of a language developed for the project by physical constraints, views and privacy, and the need for simple construction techniques. the L-shaped form bends the program to shield the living and sleeping spaces from external views while creating a new private landscape on its interior side. This side faces inward and upward toward views of surrounding redwood treetops more than 100-feet in height. The primary building form is wood-clad with 2 distinct moments articulated on each side. On the arrival side, a stairway drops thru the floor above to register the floor datum at the entry. On the interior side, a generous deck and timber frame-work extends the living space to the outdoors. An apple orchard with a low canopy separates the property from a neighbor and gives the master bedroom chamber a unique setting.
Design ChallengeThe house is situated in a low area, distanced from the river’s edge, yet within its flood plain. Due to the flood plain, the inhabited areas of the house are raised 12-feet above surrounding grades. In severe rain conditions, the site becomes completely inundated with slow-moving flood waters. In response, the floor structure is conceived of as a durable concrete podium, suspended over the landscape. The cantilevered podium is supported by round concrete pilotis and the house's garage and storage elements. Further, the base elements are equipped with flood vent panels to allow the passage of water. The structure is in this way permeable with finishes treated for wet conditions.
Physical ContextThis modest house is designed to occupy a diverse landscape between the coast and inland areas along the Russian River. The river is the backbone of the region, which is defined by a mix of sweeping ridgelines, oak woodlands and deep ravines of redwood forests. The river continually shapes the land on its path to the Pacific and is prone to heavy periodic flooding. The river gives the house its context.