Harvesting the view

Wine country complex is a model of unity

"It's a series of frames for seamless indoor-outdoor living."
- jury comment

MERIT AWARD, Arkin Tilt Architects, Albany, CA
Like a farm compound nestled into a tawny hillside, this project in Northern California's Wine Country creates a timeless, self-contained world. Four separate structures constituting 2,680 square feet take maximum advantage of rolling oak and grassland views.

Each structure plays a distinct role: carport, guest quarters, main living and eating space, and bedroom wing. The jury particularly admired how the exterior spaces linking these units serve as open-air halls and a grand outdoor living room. The flow in and around the buildings makes the house feel especially spacious.

The three-story tower - which contains a ground-floor guest suite, an office on the middle level, and a covered deck at the top - anchors the compound and offers the grandest views. Like the other two living spaces, it has 18-inch-thick, terra-cotta-colored walls made of a sprayed mix of earth and cement called pneumatically impacted stabilized earth. The mass of the walls helps moderate temperature swings. The uphill sides of the other two living spaces are partially notched into the hill; they provide additional temperature buffering.

The use of recycled materials - including roof trusses made of reclaimed fir, ceiling decking made of wood salvaged from pickle barrels, and a kitchen counter from part of a bowling lane - contributes to the home's ecological spirit. Jurors appreciated the regional character of the house, established with elements like slatted wood cribbing, corrugated metal roofing, and plywood-and-batten siding drawn from California's agricultural building traditions. Cast-concrete counters and a lap pool with a "disappearing edge" add contemporary touches.

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