Moose Road Residence
San Francisco-based architects SFOSL delivers projects ‘Moose Road Residence’ that are grounded in Scandinavian straightforwardness combined with the innovation and creativity inherent in Northern California. SFOSL operates with the conceptual approach that “The question is the answer”. Within each challenge is a simple solution, and each project strives to produce a simple answer to complex challenges.
- Question: How can we capture three specific views without eradicating the characteristic oak canopy?
- Answer: 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.
The architects Grygoriy Ladigin, Casper Mork-Ulnes, and Andreas Tingulstad at SFOSL were commissioned to build a cabin for two couples to share in a remote town in Mendocino County, which is located along the Pacific Coast two hours north of San Francisco. With a modest budget of less than $200 per square foot, the clients wanted to spend roughly $200,000 for a residence that would take advantage of views of a mountaintop, a valley, and a rock formation while also preserving the oak trees scattered throughout the site.
The architects’ challenge was to capture all three views without obstructing the oak canopy. The roots of the oak trees are shallow and cannot support a conventional concrete perimeter foundation, so the architects raised the structure on stilts. The residence is separated into four spokes—three of the arms frame the views and the fourth acts as an entry to the cabin.
The wood frame structure is clad in unfinished raw steel panels. It is elevated on steel stilts, which are lodged in bedrock dispersed between the tree roots. The only exception is a small concrete foundation supporting the entry stair; a communal spa sinks into the concrete foundation. The interior surfaces are unfinished plywood and orientated strand board.
TWO COUPLES – ONE VISION
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.
Project name: Moose Road Residence
Location: Moose Rd, Ukiah, California 95482, United States
Coordinates: 38.996381, -123.205292
- Type By Characteristic: Cabin / Hut / Cottage, Prefab House
- Type By Site: Hill House, Countryside / Suburb House
- Type By Size: Small House – (51 sqm – 200 sqm)
- Type By Structural: Steel House
Materials: Steel and wood frame
Site Area: 16 acres
Project Area: 1,140 sq.ft – 105 sqm
Project Year: 2011
Completion Year: 2012
Client / Owner / Developer: Glen Berry, Kate Micawbar, Nicholas Sholley & Thais Harris
Architects: SFOSL Architects – 602 Minnesota Street, San Francisco, United States
Project Team: Grygoriy Ladigin, Casper Mork Ulnes, Andreas Tingulstad
Engineer: Double D Engineering
General contractor: Crossgrain Co. Inc.
Text Description: © Courtesy of SFOSL Architects, aiasf, archrecord.construction
Images: © SFOSL Architects, Bruce Damonte
Materials & Suplier:
Roofing:, Built-up roofing: Duro-Last PVC single-ply roofing, Metal: Flashing by Western Metal Deck
External walls: Metal Panels: Rezibond Rustwall by Western Metal Deck, Moisture barrier: Tyvek
Glazing: Skylights: Velux
Windows: Metal frame: All Weather Architectural Aluminum
Doors: Sliding doors: Panda Windows 9000 series sliding doors, All Weather Architectural Aluminum multi-slide door
- Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Ikea kitchen cabinet boxes with custom faces by Crossgrain Co., Inc.
- Paints and stains: Semco Blanco (white) Pro Stain, Semco X-Crete 400 sealer, Semco Crystal Coat top coat
- Paneling: Unfinished Birch Plywood
- Solid surfacing: Shower and tub waterproofing and finish by Semco Modern Seamless Surface
- Floor and wall tile: OSB flooring throughout
- Special interior finishes unique to this project: Paperstone kitchen and bathroom vanity countertop
- Masson for Light track lights.
- Interior ambient lighting: CB2 Utility Pendant lights.
- Downlights: Lithonia Lighting Fluorescent Strip Lights, 4” Commercial Electric Air Lock Recessed Fluorescent Fixtures
Other: On-Demand Water heater by Noritz, MORSO EPA II Certified Wood burning stove as primary heat source.