Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Family Affair

Juliet and Jack Menzel created a modern home in the heart of Silicon Valley using age old techniques.

Designed by and for a young professional couple, this infill project is located in old Mountain View, California. The project quickly evolved as the couple became disillusion by both the price point and quality of the existing housing stock in Silicon Valley and decided to design and build their first home. Juliet, a recent graduate from MIT, had just finished her first year in the Master of Architecture program. She was eager to translate design theories into a constructed reality, while Jack, a director of Search at Google, desired modern simplicity and functionality that resonated with Google’s core design principle. Together with Jack’s step father, David Easton of Rammed Earth Works, many of the design decisions were hashed out and subsequently revised during family meal times.   

The project was designed as a series of graduating volumes in response to the neighborhood, which consists of many turn of the century cottages. As a result, the two-story portion of the house is located to the back of the property to minimize its overall appearance when viewed from the quiet residential street. Suspended between two rammed earth volumes, the main living space features large sliding glass doors that open onto an expansive outdoor area while being protected by a row of existing cypress trees. Influenced by the Eichler homes in the region, the clerestory window in the living space encourages cross-ventilation. The thick rammed earth walls results in a tremendous amount of thermal mass, keeping the indoors comfortably cool even in the middle of Californian summers. In the wintertime, radiant-heated concrete floors provide warmth. Working with a tight budget, the construction cost was greatly reduced by using standardized widths and repeating formwork. From site clearing to final inspection, the entire construction of this Mountain View residence happened within the short span of six months – a break-neck pace in the field of architecture and construction, but for Silicon Valley it could only be expected. 

By Juliet Hsu

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