Berkeley, CA, USA
Larry Wong (Structural Engineer)
The house confounds conventional scalar relationships between volume and aperture. The positioning of windows is determined independently of the facade tile pattern; the two are at times aligned and at times misaligned. Three types of glazing exist: pocketing (in which the window frames completely retract into the facade), flush-framed (clerestory windows in the upstairs bath and kitchen), and flush-frameless (at the entry). A skylight in the upstairs living area is a three-dimensionally rotated version of the clerestory window, as evident in the section. Organizationally, the division of the interior is based on a recursive diagram, with walls branching off a central switchback stair. Most walls accommodate pocket doors and windows. Conceptually, this is a doubling of the house, in which the poche also conceals infrastructural elements such as venting and downspout systems. The coloration of the project is determined by the porcelain tile, to which all elements visible on the exterior are color-matched, including exterior window blinds and metals.
This project is a new house that includes a dedicated gallery for contemporary ceramic art. The form is a twenty-eight-foot cube, determined in part by the choice of a four-foot square porcelain panel for the building’s skin. Each panel is both adhered and mechanically attached with invisible clips for seismic safety. The clients desired a clear, distinct house that functioned daily as a residence but also acted as a backdrop for an extensive and rotating art collection. For a small house, a relatively large amount of space is dedicated to transitional areas. The entry vestibule, for example, functions mainly as an in-between condition. Its absence of structure is enabled by two cantilevered steel beams embedded in the floor above. When its sliding door is open, it merges with the living space beyond. At the rear yard side of the home, another vestibule houses mechanical functions as well as acting as the more quotidian entry, again a transition between exterior and interior. A roof deck is accessed via a hatch at the top of the stair that is contained within the cube volume of the house. The deck acts as an extension of living space, adding almost a third to the house's square footage. The compact footprint of the cube and its positioning near the corner of the lot also allowed for space dedicated to a rear yard, once again relatively open to the surrounding context.
The house can be said to embody closed and open states by way of its exterior sliding panels. In the completely closed state, the project reads as an impenetrable monolith with a corner cube subtraction (the main entry). In the open state, the reading shifts to one of a hollow shell, at times rendered transparent by sight lines that extend through the house and connect back to the city. For example, when the sliding doors at the main entry and the rear facade are open, the views through the corner of the house and to neighboring buildings beyond are enabled. The sliding doors and windows, as they change position daily based on the projects' use, produce a shifting legibility of the form. The house's image then registers its internal uses as they change for climatic and functional reasons. The internal division of space also ranges from highly differentiated and distinct to free-flowing and open. In daily use, virtually all interior pocket doors remain open to allow for the spaces to continue into one another. Upstairs, for example, freedom of movement between bedroom, living, kitchen and roof deck is left unhindered. When guests are present, either for social or professional reasons (the viewing of art), various configurations of the interior spaces allow for a selective experience of the furniture, artworks, and views to the exterior.