Monday, May 05, 2008
Orchard House in Sebastopol, California by Anderson Anderson Architecture
Seattle- and San Francisco-based Anderson Anderson Architecture approached this Sonoma County house's design the same way as many of their other residential commissions: finding site-specific solutions that utilize offsite construction. Their recent book Prefab Prototypes is effectively a treatise on this approach that takes advantage of prefabricated construction elements, without their designs becoming repetitive or denying the client's unique wishes and personalities. The Orchard House is an excellent example of a balance of these apparently contradictory realms.
Living in Manhattan means not only living in smaller accommodations for more money, it also means living disconnected from nature and its cycles and processes. When a couple raising their children in a Manhattan loft decided to relocate to northern California they chose a five-acre working orchard. Covered in a grid of century-old Gravenstein apple trees, the family was smitten with the site, but their architects were a bit hesitant at first, eventually finding inspiration in what the land offered them.
Mark and Peter Anderson found in the grid of trees an armature for their design, placing U-shaped, site-cast concrete walls (created with a modular set of prefab formwork) on the nodes. Prefabricated truss framing spans the walls to strengthen the horizontal emphasis of the one-story house and create a roof line below the tops of the apple trees, situating the house in deference to its surroundings. Simultaneously, the trees enter into the realm of the U-shaped house both in the central court and in the pool and other "outdoor rooms".
While the house is structured about the grid of apple trees, visually opening the interior between the concrete walls in a similar vein to the spaces between the trees, it is the ceiling and floor plane that determine the houses character more than the grid. Both windows and doors span from floor to ceiling, with the horizontal planes extending beyond the vertical enclosure to frame immediate and distant vistas. The density of Manhattan buildings is replaced by the density of the apple trees, a constant reminder of nature, its cycles, and the fruit which we eat.