Architect / Firm: SAW // Spiegel Aihara Workshop, Inc.
Project Location: 857 College Ave, Menlo Park, CA
On a narrow lot in a compact stretch of Menlo Park, a small cottage had stood since sometime in the mid-Fifties. It was a simple assemblage of California vernacular, pressed over the years by encroaching concrete and ballooning adjacencies. The little cottage was sensible and forthright but outmoded and falling into disrepair. In 2016, a new family moved in, growing for sure, but also determined to build simply, clearly, and with a focus on nature.
The new residence is conceived of as three variations of the legacy vernacular form, attenuated, stretched, and assembled around a series of gaps, luring the landscape inward, and alternating building form with vertical and horizontal gardens of various scales. The subtle relief of tapered lap siding seamlessly wraps corners, erasing edges, and providing a tactile surface to be animated by the movement of the sun and sweeping shadows of the ferns.
The neat, structured forms of the building rely upon the blurry, bushy layers of the landscape to create an alternation of indoor and outdoor rooms, soften the connection to the ground, and obfuscate the always-apparent boundary conditions of suburban life.
With 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms (all in heavy use, especially during the pandemic), the collection of forms creates an almost urban density while accommodating a modest budget. But, critically, the exterior spaces are layered in just as densely, producing a house that draws from the vernacular, responds to the contemporary, and resides in the landscape.
General Contractor: R Magee Construction
Owner/Developer: Baskin Investment Group
Photographer: Mikiko Kikuyama