Architect / Firm: SAW // Spiegel Aihara Workshop
Project Location: 580 Cotton St., Menlo Park, CA 94025
Completion Date: 04/12/2013
Located on a half acre lot in the heart of Silicon Valley, the house reimagines the suburban housing type through interlocking bars of shared and private program. The composition re-appropriates the traditional forms of the California ranch house and farm tower as tools of environmental performance and social interaction, deployed to create variable density, natural ventilation, solar energy generation, day-lighting, and immersion into the site.
The clients, two professors with grown children, sought a house that could accommodate varying use patterns, creating an intimate environment for their own use as a couple, yet allowing for a spacious and integrated configuration for ten or more family members, and even up to 200 party guests. This complex programmatic request inspires the specific massing and siting of the building.
The first floor consists of two long and narrow structures that intersect in an open kitchen, providing distinct programmatic areas and settling into the tree-lined landscape, allowing yards to surround and permeate each room. Subtle rotations of the geometry assist in way-finding, as well as identification of the more public and more private functions. The private master suite opens into a fern garden in the eastern corner of the site, while large sliding glass doors suspend the living room within the landscape for family gatherings or larger events.
A compact and vertical guest tower is sited at the western corner of the lot amongst tall evergreens, allowing for a more private guest experience, more compact floor plan, and the ability to effectively shut off (socially and energy-wise) the guest spaces during typical daily use. Atop the 30 foot tower, a roof deck emerges through the trees, providing a unique vantage point of the structure below and the surrounding townscape.
The high density of the guest spaces is enhanced by the hidden solar array which produces over 90% of the electrical demand of the house. Combined with the insulated glazing, radiant floor heat, passive cooling, and resilient natural materials, the house prioritizes sustainability in terms of both resources and living patterns.
Through an integral relationship between use, form, and material, the structure responds sensitively site, nature, and neighborhood, creating a house that is at one both urban and rural, for a new type of suburban living.
Landscape Design: Megumi Aihara
Consulting Architect: Peter Rose + Partners
Consulting Architect: OKB Architecture
Civil: WEC and Associates
Mechanical: Monterey Energy Group
Geotechnical: Murray Engineers
Landscape Contractor: Terra Ferma Landscapes
Photography: Bruce Damonte