Craig Steely Architecture

Roofless House

Atherton, CA, USA, 2018
23. October 2018
Photo: Darren Bradley
One-story-tall cedar wood walls may seem like the opposite of "good neighbor," but their use in Craig Steely Architecture's intriguingly named Roofless House are born from its neighbors: the blank walls of houses in Atherton, a suburb in California's Silicon Valley. Craig Steely answered a few questions about the Roofless House.
Project: Roofless House, 2018
Location: Atherton. California. USA
Client: Withheld
Architect: Craig Steely Architecture
Design Principal: Craig Steely
Project Architect: Luigi Silverman
Project Team: Ryan Leidner, Tune Kanharoup, Anastasia Victor
Structural Engineer: Strandberg Engineering
Landscape Architect: Elias Gonzales
Contractor: Drew Maran Construction
Windows: Fleetwood
Glazing: Collier Windows
Site Area: 1/2 acre
Building Area: 3.000 sf interior/3000 sf exterior courtyard
Photo: Darren Bradley
What were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project?
I had designed a house for an associate of the owners and was recommended by them.

What are the main ideas and inspirations influencing the design of the building?
The owner requested a house with as much outdoor space as possible, while limiting her views of the surrounding Architectural hodgepodge.
Photo: Darren Bradley
Please provide an overview of the project.
An enigmatic structure on a long and skinny lot defined by a sinuous almost windowless wall clad in vertical cedar planks contains living spaces surrounded by three expansive courtyards.  Slightly less than half of the 6,000 square feet inside of the curving enclosure is interior space while the other half is open to the sky.
Photo: Darren Bradley
How does the design respond to the unique qualities of the site?
The climate is temperate and the owner wanted a house where she could live outdoors as much as possible. Complicating this desire was that the lot is long and narrow and her view on all sides was of the backs of the neighboring houses which, like most typical suburban houses, are huge and blank. But above these neighboring houses, the mature tree canopy and sky were alive, constantly changing and breathtaking. Focusing on this view up rather than horizontally out we created a seemingly roofless house that surrounds the living spaces by huge outdoor courtyards that direct the view up.
Photo: Darren Bradley
What products or materials have contributed to the success of the completed building?
The living spaces are open-planned and blur the connection between indoor/outdoor with retractable sliding doors and continuous materials like travertine on the interior and exterior floors and cedar on the walls. But what sets this building apart is the continuous curving wall that surrounds it. It fully encloses the house, blocking out the less desirable views, focusing on the more meaningful views and creating interest as the sunlight and shadows move through the day along it’s surfaces.  At its most elemental, the curving wooden wall creates a visual backdrop seen through the interior landscape of plants and birch trees, animated by the shadows moving across it all day.

Email interview conducted by John Hill.
Photo: Darren Bradley
Plan sketch (Drawing: Craig Steely)
Study model

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