MOOSE ROAD . Mendocino County

SFOSL . photos: © Bruce Damonte

The project is a result of this conflict; by lifting the structure on stilts we preserved the trees and by separating the program according to a spatial divison of three "arms" we framed the view. A fourth arm stabilizes the cabin and enables an entry and bath.

Two couples came to us with a shared vision of building a cabin on this remote location.
They had a limited budget, but a strong passion for the site and sustainable priciples in which immediatly fired us up.
At the highest point of this property in Mendocino County, views can be seen of a valley, a mountaintop and a rock formation called “Eagle Rock”. Our clients were adamant about seeing those views from their new cabin, but were also resolute about preserving the oak trees scattered throughout the site. Our strategy was to capture the views while preserving the trees, and to find a way to do it for under $200 per square foot.
An additional site constraint: the roots of the oak trees were shallow and wouldn’t survive a conventional foundation. Since the trees grew on a thin layer of topsoil, we found our opportunity. By drilling precise holes between the roots to the bedrock, we were able to build the structure on stilts. With the need to access the now hovering ground floor, we poured a tiny foundation for the stair and made this the one place where the building meets the ground. This foundation also encases a concrete bathtub. The remaining three “arms“ of the building quietly hover at different heights above the ground and the raised mass. Its geometry takes full advantage of the summer breeze to keep the building cool.

Budget constraints forced us to reduce the number of window openings, and as we wanted to frame particular views, we chose to limit the use of windows to the ends of each of the “arms“. The exception came at the intersection of the views, the entry, and the communal spa. The first arm is a living/dining/communal space. Two of the arms provide each couple with a bedroom behind a centered functional pod containing a toilet, sink and storage. In order to provide the three views at all times, we chose to center the pods and integrate the doors into the walls so that when in an open position, nothing hinders the eye. The clerestory glass above the pods lowers the solid mass from the ceiling and allows natural light to permeate the space, even when the doors are closed. A communal spa is also seamlessly solved: the tub drops into the floor – all cast in the same concrete material. A floor to ceiling window faces the valley and you can lie in the tub and enjoy the view. The humble building interior is left simple with OSB floors and plywood walls.
In contrast to the interior, the exterior of the project is more alien to the natural surroundings. It is clad in unfinished raw steel that changes color with the sun, due to “oil canning”, the buckling of the steel sheet material. The interplay between the oil canning and the shadows cast by the oak canopy paint magical moving pictures year round and celebrate the trees and setting. The project is 1170 sq ft and has a total cost of 209,000 dollars – 178 dollars per square foot. This budget made us think differently – and made us realize how much you can achieve for so little. We are fortunate to have been able to build in these surroundings.

This project has been a sustainable journey from day one. The clients pushed us and we were happy to comply. The constraints mentioned above were some of the topics generated by this holistically sustainable approach. Like in all of our projects we are first and foremost focused on how far we can question the need for each square foot. If a space has no intention – it is unnecessary and obsolete. There is no site grading. We optimized the framing. We limited windows. As mentioned above, the most sustainable square foot is the one we do not build.

Team: Grygoriy Ladigin, Casper Mork Ulnes, Andreas Tingulstad.

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