Designed for a photographer, the new studio and workshop building replaces an enchanting but irreparable old barn and is built approximately within its footprint. Located on agricultural land in western Marin County, California, the site lies near a seasonal creek between ranch pastures and is flanked by Eucalyptus trees and Redwoods to the north and south respectively. The design team approached the project as a challenge to fuse program, site, and intention in the simplest, most elegant manner possible. The latent substance of a great project resided within the site and the client’s sensibilities: Our task was to reveal it. The resulting structure is an essay about place, an apparatus for understanding and working within the site.
The 2,200-square-foot building is positioned to retain existing trees, using them to dramatically frame access and views and to shade its translucent roof areas. Using an elevated floor slab, drilled foundation piers and an existing retaining wall, we eliminated the need for any grading and minimized the impact on the flow of sub-surface water.
The main work space is a gabled basilica with the cross-sectional proportions of the old barn. It is structured by open-web steel frames allowing unobstructed use of its interior volume. The exterior is a tapestry of rusted cor-ten steel, polycarbonate and huge sliding panels of redwood salvaged from the old barn. The polycarbonate forms a double skin assembly for the large translucent sections of roof and wall. Behind the redwood panels four large glass doors offer cross ventilation and views clear through the building.
The design team advanced the expressive and functional possibilities of agricultural building methods, transforming a pre-engineered metal building system through refinement of its proportions and the elaboration of its enclosure system. The space is heated radiantly from within the concrete floor slab and is passively cooled using thermal mass and natural ventilation assisted by fans high in the gables. Combined with 7” of insulation and the double skin of polycarbonate, the resulting space is comfortable and calm.