To design a casual, modern home in a neighborhood whose bylaws aim instead to promote the design of “Mediterranean estates”
The clients for this home, a young couple with three young children, dogs, and a cat, sought to create a modern, year-round home that reflected spatially their very informal family life style. However, the seaside canal parcel of land that most appealed to them was subject to design regulations that aimed to create buildings that mimicked those of the Mediterranean in the Renaissance rather than the Caribbean of the twenty-first-century. To that end, the neighborhood bylaws required that new homes must have sloped roofs and be clad with terra-cotta tiles, use only pale stucco exterior walls, and have front facades with window types that harked to formal, individuated room layouts.
Whereas the designs of the surrounding “Mediterranean” homes aim to make already large homes appear as even larger by creating continuous, imposing blocks, our strategy focused upon breaking down the clients’ programmatic components – living/kitchen, dining, bedrooms, study, library, home theatre, games room, and a garage – into seemingly separate volumes.
By offsetting these volumes as if they were blocks being stacked and pulled apart, covered outdoor terraces are created below and between the blocks. For example, by separating the volume holding the family’s informal living/kitchen area and the volume housing a garage and games room, a shaded, outdoor living area is created. Similarly, rather than adding an opulent “portico” entryway, a low-slung, bedroom volume above fashions a modest, recessed entrance. While the home’s exterior is deliberately made to seem smaller by the illusion of separated volumes, the home’s interior is characterized by expansive, interlocked spaces. Each primary space has views into the adjacent space in plan, but, more dramatically, the stacked volumes are continuous internally, thus the home has multiple areas that reach as tall as twenty-five feet. The clients very much desired that all primary spaces for the family be shared spaces, so that while from the exterior the home appears to be a combination of multiple volumes, from the interior it was symbolically important that every space would be fused together by a visually continuous ceiling.
While many components of the bylaws that aimed to create “Mediterranean” could be absorbed into a modern design vocabulary, the greatest challenge was the negotiation of the requirement for a sloped, terra-cotta roof. This seeming modern design hardship ultimately emerged as the most significant and striking architectural element of the home. In contrast to the “Mediterranean” roofs with numerous and discontinuous rooflines, we developed a sloped, sculptural roof that for simplicity is reduced to two slopes with a single ridge that runs the length of the entire home. The continuous roof becomes the architectural element that joins the individual volumes below. Meanwhile, on the interior, the heavy-timber engineering of the complex roof is left exposed in every primary space, underscoring the poetic and symbolic intention for the family to be always housed beneath one roof.