HILLSIDE IN OAKLAND
Before I started my practice, I had designed a small kitchen remodel for a house upon a rolling Oakland hillside. The children that my clients had raised in that house were now grown and had left. Tragically, the 1991 Oakland Hills Firestorm had burnt the house to the ground. I was asked to help this couple build a new house.
Now older, they wanted the bulk of their daily activity to be arrayed onto a mostly level plane - a bit difficult as this was a hillside. The wife still continued her food consulting and her husband, though now retired, continued with his and his wife’s active participation in Oakland political life. Their day began with breakfast, so they wanted a small breakfast area for reading the morning papers and having coffee looking out onto the landscape filling with the rising sun. They needed a large dining area for meals with guests and for layout projects. They also wanted a generous living room suitable for guests with an intimate side nook in which the husband could store and play his music collection. And they wanted all these spaces to have direct contact with an open kitchen. I was pleased with the plan we evolved, in which these spaces fanned out around the kitchen, each interspersed with courtyards. From within or near the kitchen, simply turning your body oriented you towards a different space. And each space had its own distinct view - perhaps down the hillside to the Bay, or over to the nearby Berkeley Hills, or out to a terrace or a small shaded court, or out to the setting sun. The bedrooms were above.
In response to the firestorm, the exterior is covered in cement shingles. All exterior supporting members are heavy timber, some covered by cedar logs cut from fallen trees at their Sierra ranch. To prevent fire intrusion into the the overhanging roofs, there are no eave vents as rigid insulation totally fills up the interstitial roof structure leaving no moist inner roof air needing ventilation to the exterior.