Location: Sonoma County, Wine Country, Northern California, United States of America
Architect: Mork-Ulnes Architects
Design date: 2014
Completion date: 2018
Site area: 74583m2
Built area: 293m2
Design Team: Alicia Hergenroeder, Grygoriy Ladigin, Casper Mork-Ulnes, Lexie Mork-Ulnes, Kyle Anderson, Erling Berg, Phi Phan, Signe Madsen, Simon Reseke, Monika Lipińska, Kristina Line
Project consultants: Landscape Architect: Surface Design, Inc., Roderick Wyllie and Michal Kapitulnik | Structural Engineer: ZFA Structural Engineers, Kevin Zucco and Drew Fagent | Civil Engineer: Adobe Associates, Tim Schram | Septic Engineer: Adobe Associates, Greg Schram | Interior Decorator: The Office of Charles De Lisle. Charles De Lisle and Sasha Lanka | Building Envelope Consultant: Neumann Sloat Arnold Architects, Amber Antracoli | Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Engineer: Interface Engineering | Geotechnical Engineer: RGH Consultants, Jared Pratt | General contractor: Nordby Signature Homes
Suppliers: Structural/Architectural Concrete: Partners Contracting, Inc., San Rafael, CA | Concrete Retaining Walls and Integrated Concrete Landscape Steps: Partners Contracting, Inc., San Rafael, CA | Wood Doors and Hardware: Curtis & Sons Door, Inc., Petaluma, CA | Structural and Ornamental Steel: Defauw Design and Fabrication, Berkeley, CA | Vitrocsa Sliding Doors: Goldbrecht, Inc., Culver City, CA | Fixed Glazing: B&L Glass Company, Santa Rosa, CA | Precast Concrete Vanity: Bohemian Stoneworks, Sebastopol, CA | Plumbing Fixtures: Premier Bath and Kitchen, Santa Rosa, CA | Electrical Fixtures: Silveria Electric, Sebastopol, CA | Custom Vent Covers and HVAC: Simpson Sheet Metal, Inc., Santa Rosa, CA | Bathroom Accessories: Doug Mockett and Company, Inc., Torrance, CA | Curtain Tracks: Vesta Drapery Hardware, Pendleton, SC | Curtains: Custom design by The Office of Charles de Lisle, Sausalito, CA | Landscaping, Plantings, and Pool + Patio stone: Siteworks Landscape, Richmond, CA | Pool Subcontractor: Johnson Pool and Spa, Windsor, CA
Photographer: Bruce Damonte
Text provided by the architects:
“The client requested a new guesthouse and accompanying pool area. Because the site offers only a narrow strip of level ground, we chose to push the house out along the steep hillside in order to maximize the flat outdoor area. This was the only way to accommodate a generous outdoor area and pool from which to fully enjoy the climate and scenery of Sonoma,” says Casper Mork-Ulnes.
At this compact Sonoma guesthouse, board-formed concrete sculpted into austere volumes carves into dry earth, suspending guest rooms over a plateau’s edge. The building is composed of three small volumes that step down with the changing grade, nesting into the site’s natural contours so that the mass of the building is softened into the hillside. Grey concrete blends with the rich, rusty colorations of the property’s rock to enhance the impression of its rootedness. A continuous, multi-gabled roof joins the private units into a coherent whole. Solid concrete walls and roof shield the interior from the sun during the harshest times of the day. The roof’s oblique ridges direct views from within the house out to the remarkable hills beyond and shade the windows to protect from the intensity of the summer sun.
“Given the clients’ desire for a low-maintenance and fire-resistant shell, concrete became a natural choice and the defining material in the project. When using a material with inherently distinctive qualities—in this case, texture, mass, structural capacity—we explore what that material can do to enhance the experience of the space. Designing in this way, the project becomes fundamentally bound to the material’s character. For us, it was important to experience both concrete sculptural, monolithic qualities, and the openness that such a structure affords. The building appears solid, heavy, and grounded from the south and west frontages. It provides privacy for the guesthouses and shelter from southern and western solar exposure. Upon entering, the building opens up dramatically. It feels light as it creates an unexpected intimacy with the landscape beyond,” says Casper Mork-Ulnes.