Yerba Buena III, the main house on a property with two structures, burned to the ground for the second time during the Woolsey Fire of 2018. The first house my late husband, architect Nick Roberts, and I designed and built in Malibu in 1986. It burned during the Green Meadows Fire of 1993. A neighbor watched as the fire passed quickly over our stucco house, but two hours later an ember entered the house probably through a single-pane window and the house went up in flames. We rebuilt the house in 1995, finished with stucco and double glazed windows.
After shifting our home-base to Los Angeles in the 1990s, we no longer needed a large presence in Malibu and decided to rent the rebuilt home and construct a smaller 700 square foot studio on a lot we purchased below the main house. We designed a fireproof structure clad in Rheinzink with no overhangs on the north elevation, the elevation exposed to the Santa Ana winds that fan the occasional fires. Finished In 2009, it was photographed and published by the LA Times on September 12, 2009 and featured in a BBC short as a new way to build a fireproof structure (https://www.corybuckner.com/video). The studio had not been tested until the Woolsey fire. Unfortunately, Nick did not live to see the studio withstand the fire.
With no fire department presence, the main house and seven of the fifteen houses in our neighborhood burned to the ground. Except for the two metal clad structures - our studio and a stainless-steel clad house nearby - every house in our neighborhood which was without its occupants burned to the ground. Those that stayed to fight the fire saved their houses.
The insurance settlement did not allow me the luxury of hiring a contractor if I wanted to build a house of the same square footage. I would be the client, architect, and contractor, which Nick and I had been on our last two houses. This time I was on my own without Nick’s help.
There was no question that the material to use on the fire rebuild would be metal siding with a fireproof underlayment of Densglas. It worked on the studio and could potentially work to save the main house the next time a fire comes through.
Construction began in January of 2020. Three months later Covid hit but despite all the delays with labor and materials, the house was completed in September of 2021.
As the end of construction approached and I spent more time living in the house, the reward of the long rebuild process became clear. To wake in the morning and see the majestic Boney Ridge to the north turn a rosy glow and watch the large ships pass by on the sea to the south was something I realized I missed and that fed my soul. There is no doubt that the property will burn again but next time the house should withstand a fiery assault.
Material Used :
1. Facade cladding: Custom bondarized metal panelling by Brighten Sheet Metal
2. Flooring: Engineered wood flooring by Reward, Terrazzo Tile
3. Doors: Arcadia Custom
4. Windows: Aluminum windows by Arcadia Custom
5. Roofing: Standing seam bondarized metal by Brighten Sheet Metal
6. Interior furniture: Striad Sofa and Eames dining chairs from Design Within Reach, dining table custom by Conejo Hardwoods, Bar stools by Vitra