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Sunday, 05 May 2013 19:47

The Robison House (1970)

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Jim and Margo Robison lived in Berkeley. Jim was a prison psychologist. They were interested in buying a section on Shasta Rd, in the Berkeley Hills and wanted to see if they could have the house that they wanted there. The site was difficult. I was steep (30%), West-facing and covered in mature redwood trees. It was a major task to design anything that did not require the elimination of some trees - an absolute no-no from thei point of view and mine - while at the same time getting light down into the living spaces. Light was a major problem. The trees shaded almost the entire area for most of the day, so it was important to open up the house to make it as receptive as possible to the light that was available. We went through several design iterations and I became increasingly frustrated at my inability to solve this complex problem. Jim, in the meantime proceeded to design perfectly acceptable houses for and by  himself - except that they all had high floor/wall ratios (derived from threading the building between the trees) and were therefore unaffordable. Finally, after a period of meditation and self-reflection, I realised that my attempts to produce "Architecture:" were getting in the way of my imagination. That understood, I immediately saw a possibility - the design illustrated here, that was compact (a hollow cube on three levels) that gave them the required accommodation in an affordable manner whilst preserving every tree. The whole of the west-facing side of the house was a soaring, sunlit space off which the upper levels opened. The house was finished in the Bay Area vernacular of redwood board and batten, merging nicely into this exclusive neighbourhood. Sadly the house was never built.
 

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