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ARIAS-TSANG RESIDENCE / BRISBANE, CALIFORNIA



CLIENT: Paul Tsang

SITE: cleared, sloping flag lot in back of existing development, surrounded by forested parkland

PROGRAM: a graphic artist, his wife and their young daughter will move their studio to Brisbane, where they hope to live and work. Their new house will have a space for exhibition off the entry, isolated from the rest of the house, as well as a small work area and the usual domestic spaces, including two bedrooms. Other than visitors viewing the exhibition of the artist’s work, the family does not entertain.

SIZE: 1,600 ft2

COST: N/f

COMPLETION: Winter 2000 (design)

NOTES: Tube steel bents and cage/frame on concrete foundation system of grade beams and piers; interior structure: steel floor frames cantilevered from steel ramp box frame structure; corrugated metal exterior skin with aluminum frame curtain wall; interior—exposed structural steel, veneer ply paneling, hardwood floors, rolling overhead door panels

PUBLICATIONS: GA Houses 66, Project 2000; C3 Korea 0309, no. 229

PROJECT TEXT: The site is located along the rear edge of the existing development, so the downhill view is into the backyards of the neighbors. The uphill view into the oak forest is more pleasant. This means that, despite the relatively generous lot size, the house must be more closed in the front (on the downhill, entry side) and more open to the rear. The best views are to the sides, along the edge of the oak forest. Because of the steepness of the site, very little usable outdoor space is available without extensive grading and retaining walls. The client prefers the house to have a minimal impact on the site.

The house borrows from the “loft” model, with openings at either end, focused to views along the edge of the oaks; the sides more closed. Into this loft “shell” a “hermit crab” of functional support elements has been introduced, similar to the “core” strategy of traditional modernism. Vertical windows on the downhill side avoid the view of the neighbor’s yards for the most part, while horizontal windows in the rear “sample” the intricate patterns of the oak forest. The simple tube form has been flexed and twisted to conform more closely to the sloping contours of the site, and these contours work their way into the interior of the house in the living area, which is sloped. The client likes a spare space, so the sloped floor of fine hardwood takes the place of furniture here.

The hermit crab elements that populate the interior of the “shell” tube are arrayed along a ramping access/circulation system. They consist of enclosed modules hung from that ramp, housing bathrooms and closets, and platforms slung between the ramp and the shell, which carry the living areas. The bedroom platforms include an adjustable bed/couch sleeping basket that suspends the occupant over the space below in a pipe-frame and stretched-fabric cocoon or hammock. Privacy is maintained for these platforms with track mounted rolling screens, operating in section, rather than conventional walls in plan; this same system provides spatial division to the non-private areas, such as kitchen and dining.