Foto © Richard Barnes
Foto © Richard Barnes
Foto © Richard Barnes

Jackson Family Retreat

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Big Sur

Design intent:

Located in the Big Sur area of Northern California, this 2,500 square foot 2 bedroom house was built for a family to enjoy together on the weekends and holidays.

It is a modernist structure that sits lightly on the land acknowledging the ecologically fragile nature of the site. It took working with ten different consultants for three and a half years to satisfy all the requirements of the local governing agencies that would have preferred to leave the site as it was-overgrown and uninhabited.

The house is composed of four volumes all made of different materials that are interwoven and interconnected to create visually and spatially complex exterior and interior spaces.

The steep walls of the canyon dominate the wooded site next to a creek. The house holds its own in this tall and cavernous place neither dominating nor being dwarfed by it. The main volume of the house runs parallel to the canyon with a butterfly roof and glass corners that reach out to the sky and the light at the open ends. The thin roof sits delicately above a band of extruded glass, connecting to the roof structure with thin rods, invisible on the exterior. At the corners of the house, two story clear windows frame the views of the redwoods and the sky at the ridge of the canyon. This volume is clad in standing seam copper.

On the front, the second volume is a one-story structure that includes all the service functions for the house and acts as buffer from the dirt road, which leads to the other houses in this old subdivision. It is clad in yellow Alaskan cedar that is turned in three directions acting as a rain screen, a fence and a railing, the material is left untreated so it will age naturally becoming silvery grey.

The back of the house is open to the views of the creek with a custom steel and glass volume. Finally the fourth volume of the staircase is both the seismic structural brace for the house and a visual foil to the shimmering and transparent volumes around it, it is clad with grey integral color stucco that wraps inside and out.

On the ground floor, two bedrooms at the opposing ends of the house enclose in the middle the two story communal living space, the fireplace room, and the loft library above. The fifteen-foot high windows in the bedrooms dissolve the corners of the spaces, bringing light and views into the bedroom and living spaces of the house.

On the second floor, the space is open with the library and communal sleeping room separated from the two story bedrooms below by glass panels.

A combination of transparent glass and extruded channel glass reflects and dapples the light on the inside, creating an ever-changing interior with a warm play of light and shadow throughout the day.

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