Forty-One Oaks

Architect / Firm: Field Architecture

Awards:    Year:    Entry Categories:

Awards:    Year:    Entry Categories:
Architect/Firm

Field Architecture

974 Commercial Street, Suite 104
Palo Alto California 94303

Contact Person

Stan Field
stan@fieldarchitecture.com
(650) 796-4334

Architectural Firm

Builder


Project Location: Portola Valley, CA
Owner:
Completion Date:

The higher goal of the project was to bring into focus the role that architecture can play in understanding and preserving California’s Oaks. By creating a direct dialogue between the spaces of the residence and the canopies of the trees, the design aims to elevate the owner’s experience of living with the trees, and implicitly offer a model for how to inhabit the Oak woodland.

As public debate continues there rises a need to address the crucial question: How can California’s oaks and oak communities be maintained and enhanced over the next 50, 100, or even 200 years?
Oaks of California, Cachuma Press 2014

In this context, the Portola Valley site mapped 41 specimen oaks, which together formed part of a larger oak woodland ecology that extends in patches along California’s coastal ranges.
The higher goal of the project was to bring into focus the role that architecture can play in understanding and preserving California’s Oaks. By creating a direct dialogue between the spaces of the residence and the canopies of the trees, the design aims to elevate the owner’s experience of living with the trees, and implicitly offer a model for how to inhabit the Oak woodland.

The architectural response began by carefully mapping the trunks, primary branches, and canopies of the trees relative to the topography and movement of the sun and breezes. The design concept creates a family of interconnected pavilions within the pockets formed by the clusters of mature trees. The architectural language begins with a spatial idea of using long extended overhanging roof lines in conjunction with the extended lateral branches of the trees to create outdoor rooms that are part building, part nature.

Using the smaller footprints and extended roof lines of the pavilions, we were able to achieve a very high level of dexterity with the orientation of the pavilions and overhangs. This allowed us to use the spaces between the oak canopies to create living spaces, while optimizing orientation to sun and wind.

The architectural vocabulary of the house is based on the repeating form of two parallel concrete “trunk” walls, which hold a cantilevering roof that extends past the walls on either side. The glass envelope is deeply recessed from the edge of the roof and configured to allow unobstructed access along its front edge, while providing operable windows that capture prevailing breezes along each of its short ends. Rooms are configured as interconnected pavilions that nestle between the mature trees and hover slightly above the interspersed grasslands. Windows are strategically placed to frame views of the sculptural form of the trees and valley beyond.

The material palettes is minimal and comprised of fair faced concrete, vertical grain cedar, and steel. The vertical concrete walls disappear into the ground and reappear as horizontal landscape walls which extend beyond the building, cutting delicate lines into the grassland and anchoring the house to the hillside. We began seeing the architecture as a way of learning from the existing oaks. Not by mimicking them, but rather by connecting our well-being to theirs. By using the trees to guide our decisions we were able to cultivate a symbiotic relationship that allows the oak woodland ecology to thrive, while providing a privileged and unique living environment in nature.

Owner - Steve & Ellen Goldband

Photographer - Steve Goldband, steve@goldband.com

Photographer - Jess Field, jess@fieldarchitecture.com

Engineer - Geoff Clifford, geoff@bcaeng.net

General Contractor - Moshe Gray, moshe_gray@hotmail.com

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