The California Coast is a dramatic fluctuation of cliffs, redwood trees and sand dunes, at once powerful and peaceful. California’s famous Pacific Coast Highway winds down the state, with alternating western views of ocean and forest, with little else visible from the narrow road. But draped over a precarious hillside on Big Sur’s south coast, Fougeron Architects’ Fall House is a frontier-cabin like no other, on the very edge of the country overlooking the Pacific.
Fall House is an elegant gathering of glass, wood, concrete and copper, its colors and textures emphasizing the natural verdancy and routine silver mists that cover of the cliff’s face. Laid out in a line perpendicular to the coastline, the house is oriented with its social spaces (living room and kitchen) closest to the road and its private spaces (master bedroom) at the forefront, facing the ocean through gigantic picture windows.
A complete project description, courtesy of Fougeron Architects, is as follows:
Placing form on wilderness is a radical act. The challenge was to design a house in one of the most spectacular natural settings on the Pacific Coast that would both respect and transform the land.
I placed a jar in Tennessee, / And round it was, upon a hill. / It made the slovenly wilderness / Surround that hill.
The wilderness rose up to it, / And sprawled around, no longer wild. / The jar was round upon the ground / And tall and of a port in air.
It took dominion every where. / The jar was gray and bare. / It did not give of bird or bush, / Like nothing else in Tennessee.
—Wallace Stevens, “Anecdote of the Jar”
This three-bedroom home, on Big Sur’s spectacular south coast, is anchored in the natural beauty and power of this California landscape. Our design strategy embeds the building within the land, creating a structure inseparable from its context. The site offers dramatic views: a 250-foot drop to the Pacific Ocean both along the bluff and the western exposure. Yet it demands a form more complex than a giant picture window.
The long, thin volume conforms and deforms to the natural contours of the land and the geometries of the bluff, much like the banana slug native to the region’s seaside forests. In this way, the complex structural system applies and defies natural forms to accommodate the siting. The house is cantilevered 12 feet back from the bluff, both to protect the cliff’s delicate ecosystem and to ensure the structure’s integrity and safety. The interior is a shelter, a refuge in contrast with the roughness and immense scale of the ocean and cliff. The house also shields the southern outdoor spaces from the powerful winds that blow from the northwest.
The main body of the house is composed of two rectangular boxes connected by an all-glass library/den. The main entry is located at the top of the upper volume with the living spaces unfolding from the most public to the most private. The living room kitchen and dining room are an open plan with subtle changes in levels and roof planes to differentiate the various functions. The lower volume, a double-cantilevered master bedroom suite, acts as a promontory above the ocean, offering breath-taking views from its floor-to-ceiling windows. The link between these two volumes is the glass library/den; it is the hearth of the house, a room that unites the house inside and out both with its geometry and its transparency.
A one-story concrete wing perpendicular to the house includes a ground-floor bedroom, building services and a green roof; it is the boulder locking the house to the land.
The house has two main facades, the south one is clad in copper which wraps up the wall and over on the roof. Copper clad roof overhangs protect windows and the front door from the sun and the wind of the ocean. The façade to the north is made all glass; clear expanses of glass open the house to the view.
Size: 3800 SF
Sustainable Design Strategies:
Former Managing Editor and Podcast Co-Producer for Archinect. I write, go to the movies, walk around and listen to the radio. My interests revolve around cognitive urban theory, psycholinguistics and food.Currently freelancing. Be in touch through firstname.lastname@example.org