KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Jun 07 2010

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Exceptional residential

On Thursday I had the great pleasure to be a juror to help choose the winners of the Exceptional Residential 2010: Bay Area Regional Design Awards at the AIA East Bay office. Along with colleagues and friends, Carol Shen FAIA, Tim Culvahouse FAIA (architect and editor of arcCA) and David Arkin, AIA (a great architect and winner of many awards himself), as well as the amazing AIAEB team, we had an intense and long day reviewing, analyzing, arguing and negotiating. We all were pleasantly amazed at how much really good sustainable design is being done. Really good.

There were 74 projects submitted, and honestly, the exceptional quality of the design and the thinking behind each of them left us inspired and hopeful. As David said, “Today I am very proud to be a Bay Area Architect.” There were consistent themes running throughout all of them: Most had sustainable design elements and green certifications, including LEED and Build it Green; more than half of them incorporated PV solar; many utilized rain catchment systems. Green wasn’t something that was added on, but was integral to the beauty and overall approach. As a whole (with a few exceptions), the homes have gotten smaller and smarter. There were many remodels and less tear-downs. There was a focus on affordability, as well as diversity, and thoughtful multifamily.

We had a really tough time narrowing them down. On another day I will write on some of my favorite projects not included here.


McDonnel Residence, Sebastapol
Architect: Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects

This new residence for two fire fighters in Sonoma demonstrates that great design can be achieved within modest means. Through the use of smart design and owner participating in the construction with a contractor, the cost of the house was $150/sq. ft. to build. The home is nestled across the rear of the lot under a mature Bay tree. The compact open plan is efficiently organized to take advantage of passive shading, cross ventilation, distant views and indoor/outdoor connections.


Atherton Residence
Architect: Turnbull Griffin Haesloop

Located on the peninsula south of San Francisco, this house sits on an internal suburban flag lot. The previous 1950s house, removed due to structural problems, featured mature landscaping and a manmade pond that the clients wanted to preserve. They wanted their new house to be a private retreat that maximizes the drama of the pond and takes advantage of the privacy of the site.

The design solution breaks the program into four buildings—main house, study, pool house and garage—that ring the edge of the site and focus inward on the pond, garden and pool. Large sliding glass doors open directly out to the pond and terrace. The roofs conceal photovoltaic and solar hot water panels. The house is heated with a radiant system in the stone floors, and despite the hot climate, it is not air-conditioned, but passively cooled with a combination of overhangs, shades and operable windows.

The house also features many green building materials, including high fly-ash concrete, formaldehyde-free casework and denim insulation. The new house creates a special place for the clients, making a main residence feel like a vacation retreat.


Casa Feliz, San Jose
Architect: Rob Wellington Quigley, FAIA

Casa Feliz replaces an aging residential hotel near downtown San Jose with 60 new affordable living units. Twenty of these units are reserved for developmentally disabled adults capable of living independently. Four stories of housing are located over a single level of below-grade parking. Amenities include a group activity room, lounge, common-use kitchen and laundry. Designed to achieve a LEED Gold rating, the building is topped with a green roof to support habitat for endangered butterflies.

Other sustainable design features include natural ventilation, daylighting, and the use of environmentally friendly building materials. This project did everything right. Affordable, green, without compromising design.



Maher Residence, Livermore
Architect: Mikiten Architecture

The house was designed to meet two equally important requirements: First, to build an energy-efficient, ecologically sound house; and second to create a home that would be completely accessible and usable by all family members, including active teenage kids, the lady-of-the-house, who uses an electric wheelchair, and her elderly mother who may move into the secondary unit. Careful integration of indoor and outdoor spaces, special cabinetry and plumbing design, and electronic automation of key components make this house both beautiful and universally accessible.

I was struck by the beauty of the home. The bathrooms and kitchens had minimal clean lines that look like they were designed for how they look, but it turns out, they also allow wheelchair accessibility. ADA done beautifully.

Park Street Residence, San Francisco
Architect: Studio Sarah Wilmer

The Eller Residence renovation, located in Bernal Heights, a neighborhood built largely after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, synthesizes the vernacular character and scale of the original cottage with the growing needs of a modern family. Like a Louise Nevelson bas-relief, the original Victorian façade is a single color, abstracting the detail and hinting at internal transformation. The rear façade expresses modernity, with large expanses of glass, a canvas sunscreen and articulated volumes that connect visually and physically to the garden.

Expanding the house from its original 1,040 sq. ft. to a still-modest 2,170 sq. ft., the design opens the home to the southern garden, maximizing passive solar heat and light, one of many green-conscious building methods. The middle level, free of most demising walls, is dedicated to living/eating/cooking. Two bedrooms at the garden level seamlessly invite the light and garden in while the original attic space functions as a playroom.

House for Two Artists, Annapolis
Architect: Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects

This project has an interesting mix of rural forms and materials, along with sleek, modern elements. The interior, while only 1600 sq. ft., feels large with double-height spaces, and bedrooms with sliding walls that allow a fluidity of openness, yet flexibility.

Sonoma Retreat
Architect: Aidlin Darling Design

Cut into the landscape by two curved earthen walls, this new spa and swimming pool extend the outdoor living spaces of an existing rammed-earth house. A rustic trellis provides shade from the California sun and frames distant views of San Francisco to the south. The spa pavilion opens to the landscape, embracing its temperate climate and provides an intimate private retreat from the main house.

The strategic use of the steel beam and column captures the outdoors and makes it physically a part of the structure, truly blurring the boundary between the interior and exterior. It is an interesting mix of very crisp detailing along with rustic imperfections from the trellis members and the reclaimed wood flooring. Many of the materials used were reused from previous structures.


House for Miller Creek Ranch, Geyserville
Architect: Nielsen:Schuh Architects

This was one of my personal favorites. It is an elegant mixture of rural forms, rustic materials as well as formal framings. It is a blending of some of my favorite materials and systems: rusted metals, concrete walls, operable glass, PV solar panels and rain water catchment system. The result is not only contextual, but elevated simplicity.


Laidley Street Residence, San Francisco
Architect: Zack deVito Architecture

My friend Tracey Taylor did a wonderful write up on this house for the San Francisco Chronicle describing the spaces, the natural light and the sustainable aspects. Here is more info.


Vai Avenue Case Study, Cupertino
Architect: Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects

Designed as a “case study” for a net-zero energy/carbon-neutral single-family residence, this compact 2250-sq. ft. home (plus garage) features an open, flexible living space and four bedrooms.


Shinsei Gardens Apartments, Alameda
Architect: Mikiten Architecture

Each apartment’s front door opens to an oasis of trees, grasses, bamboo and native and draught-tolerant plants. Places to sit, barbecue and play are provided in spaces that range from intimate to communal.

The style of the buildings is a contemporary interpretation of local Craftsman homes and the Japanese joinery that inspired the Craftsman aesthetic. Wooden platforms evoke the feeling of footbridges found in classical Japanese gardens, and the courtyard pathway is like a river meandering through hills and valleys. Entering the courtyard, one winds between sculptural, curving wood walls—a sequence of discovery as one leaves the world of streets and cars behind, and emerges into the peace, dignity, and authenticity of nature.

The project is currently a candidate for LEED Platinum certification. It will be managed by local nonprofits, with about 35% of the 39 units targeted to house people with physical disabilities.

Orinda Residence
Architect: Nick Noyes Architecture

This remodel project is a great example of an experienced hand and clean, simple lines, proving that remodeling an existing structure does not limit one’s ability to make a beautiful new design.


Oxford Plaza, Berkley
Architect: Solomon ETC, San Francisco

P.A.A.V./Whitworth Residence, San Anselmo
Designers: Student Design-Build Team, Graduate School of Architecture, Academy of Art

Residence in the Berkeley Hills
Architect: GHA Design

Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life, San Jose
Architect: Steinberg Architects

Blue Pickle Loft, Oakland
Architect: Paul Welschmeyer Architect

Michelle Kaufmann

This entry was posted on Monday, June 7th, 2010 at 3:00 AM and is filed under Green. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.