If architect James Cutler, FAIA, had his way, Orcas Island would be nothing but blue and green—at least as seen from the air. Cruising by helicopter over one of the most serene spots in the Pacific Northwest's San Juan Island chain, he managed to get his message across despite the ear-splitting noise. "Look," he shouted, as we passed over a recently completed project. "Isn't that great? You can barely see the place at all."
Honoring geographic conditions, responding to the integrity of natural materials, and staying true to a romantic vision have long formed the philosophic backbone of Cutler Anderson Architects. The firm's ability to translate that philosophy into sophisticated expressions of individuality was what brought one couple to Cutler's door.
Their site was steep but buildable, lush with second-growth forest, and in possession of a sweeping view that overlooked a wide saltwater channel and nearby Shaw Island. Just as fortuitous, says Cutler, was the couple's playful, experimental streak, which he shares. It was this set of particulars and the relatively simple programmatic desires of the client—a serious kitchen, truly private spaces, room for family gather-ings—that shaped the design of the vacation retreat.
oc Writer Victoria Medgyesi lives in Seattle.
Project: Long Residence, Orcas Island, Washington Architect: Cutler Anderson Architects—Jim Cutler FAIA, Julie Montgomery, AIA, Chad Harding Engineer: Coffman Engineers
Consultants: Doug Rasar Interiors (interior designer); Robert Trachtenberg (landscape architect); Eastsound (landscape installation) General contractor: Alford Homes
6. Hot tub
2. Dining room
3. Living room
6. Hot tub
2. Dining room
3. Living room
A deck, supported by a concrete retaining wall, runs the length of the house on the open, windowed side (opposite). The interiors continue the celebration of wood, where western red cedar logs (hoisted onto tripods) reveal their skeletal form, and rafters fit to the top of the log structures (this page). A metal roof tops the entire ensemble (below and opposite).
Responding to the steep, wooded site, Cutler supported the house on 18 sets of peeled-wood tripods engineered to provide enough lateral stability to dispense with conventional shear elements. The tripods were attached to western red cedar log beams by concealed steel plates and bolts. Each was then visually punched through the floor and extended down to a steel connection at the footing. A system of rafters graduated in size relative to span resists the pull of gravity.
Cutler wrapped the building's system of wooden bones in an exterior skin of glass, aluminum, and cedar shingle. He then topped the
LIKE GOLDSWORTHY'S SCULPTURE, CUTLER'S WORK MAKES A STRONG STATEMENT ABOUT NATURE AND STRUCTURE.
shell with a layer of two-by-six spacers that support a large overhanging metal roof and create an insulated cavity below it. Given the clients' emphasis on privacy, the shed roof serves to visually insulate the structure from the road above.
Each room in the 2,035-square-foot house opens to the expansive cedar terrace through a set of 8-by-6-foot, custom sliding doors, providing multifaceted views to all the interior spaces. A corridor running the full length of the uphill side of the house provides access to all of the rooms—the main living area, bedroom suite, guest room, and two full baths.
Visitors to the house get their first peek of the building's dis tinctive wood tripods through low-to-the-ground windows along the uphill entry side. The structural elements reach their full 15-foot-high glory along the glass curtain wall facing the view. As was Cutler's intention, the tripods refer to the trees on the other side of the glass—an idea inspired by Scottish sculptor Andy Goldsworthy's installations involving fallen trees.
Cutler credits his contractor, Lowell Alford, for executing an unorthodox design that combines sophisticated engineering with ancient materials. Alford even harvested the logs from land owned by his father and hired a team of high school students to peel the logs prior to off-site assembly.
Like Goldsworthy's sculpture, Cutler's work makes a strong statement about nature and structure. It's a soft/hard balance echoed in the muted beech-wood floors, the whitewashed pine walls, and the clean lines of the custom wood furniture and cabinetry, much of which was designed by Cutler himself. ■
Metal roofing: Taylor Metal Products Upholstery: National Furniture Company
Lighting: Tech Lighting; Venzia Light Fixtures
Windows and window walls:
Custom-designed by Jim Cutler
Sliding doors: Custom-designed by Alford Homes
Cabinets and woodwork: Custom-designed by Cutler Anderson Architects
For more information on this project, go to Residential at www.archrecord.com.
The house perches on an uneven downhill slope, affording dramatic views of the Santa Monica Canyon. Three levels are stacked within the concrete volume, colored an iridescent lavender, which changes with the light. The architect says the color was derived from that of the eucalyptus trees prevalent on the site.
Johnston Marklee's "«^^-"«-»"thes on a precipitous site like a faceted diamond
By Michael Webb
Some of the best wine is made from vines that have to struggle for a foothold on steep slopes, and the same is true for residential architecture in Los Angeles. Starting with Wright, Schindler, and Neutra in the 1920s, architects have developed inventive solutions for precipitous sites in Silver Lake, the Hollywood Hills, and west to Malibu. Few undeveloped plots remain, and the partnership of Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee was challenged to build a spacious spec house on a small and irregular plot of land that drops unevenly from a busy street to command a panoramic view over Santa Monica Canyon. The local Hillside Ordinance limits height (48 feet from the lowest point) and bulk in an effort to preserve the rustic character of the canyon. An earlier, failed attempt to build on the site would have required 23 caissons to meet the city's stringent seismic code.
The architects turned these constraints to advantage by tapering their three-level block at the top and bottom. This allowed them to minimize the footprint, reduce the number of costly caissons to nine, and free up space for a backyard, while maximizing the volume within the zoning envelope. The form emerged as a response to the site and regulations, and the architects massaged it in physical models and with Form Z software until they had sculpted a 3,600-square-foot interior. In contrast to other attempts to max out the site, the Hill House seems to grow organically
Michael Webb is the author of many books on architecture and design, most recently Art/Invention/House and Adventurous Wine Architecture. He lives in a Richard Neutra hillside apartment near UCLA.
3. Living/dining area
5. Utility room
7. Master bath
3. Living/dining area
5. Utility room
7. Master bath from the slope, much like John Lautner's celebrated Chemosphere House. Its chamfered elegance also recalls the massing diagrams for New York skyscrapers that Hugh Ferris transformed into works of art.
The design and permitting process stretched over 18 months, at a time when the two partners were completing the Sale House—a modest cluster of gray cubes on a flat site in Venice, California. When the
Project: Hill House, Pacific Palisades, California
Architect: Johnston Marklee & Associates—Mark Lee, principal in charge; Sharon Johnston, AIA, Jeff Adams, Mark Rea Baker, project architects
Engineers: William Koh & Associates (structural); CC & R (civil); Jim Sadler (glass)
Consultants: Lush Life LA (landscape); Dan Wienreber (lighting); Jack Pierson (artist/color) General contractor: Hinerfeld-Ward o
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