Crystals in the Landscape: a sharp-angled House embedded in California’s Wine Country | The Plan
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Crystals in the Landscape: a sharp-angled House embedded in California’s Wine Country

Voorsanger Architects

Napa Valley, an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, is the hub of the California wine industry, drawing hordes of visitors every year though still preserving the area’s natural beauty. The prestige of Napa’s premium labels has encouraged investors to create boutique wineries in a few favored locations. An idyllic landscape and 39,500 sq m of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon vines persuaded a Bostonian couple to buy the property and replace a leaky farmstead with a daring new house by Voorsanger Architects of New York.
From the small hill to the rear it appears as a quartet of silvery darts flying into space. From ground level, these sharp-edged triangles are revealed to be folded planes of stainless steel that provide a shady canopy for the three linked pavilions of the main house and a separate guest house. An open kitchen shares the first with a library that doubles as a dining room. This leads into the living room, with two guest bedrooms beyond, and the third pavilion contains the master suite. Tilted walls of glass enclose the trapezoidal volumes and the soffits tilt up to embrace views over the vines to a distant mountain. Ceilings and floors are of Sapele, a tropical wood that is closely related to mahogany, and its rich tone complements the pale limestone that clads concrete block walls supporting the roof and punctuating the expanses of low-iron glass.
Dividing the 500 sq m house into three pavilions breaks up its mass, and provides every room with cross ventilation and constantly changing natural light. Voorsanger speaks of his fascination with “indeterminate space”, the quality he admires in the work of Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. By this, he means a freedom from constraints and formal boundaries. The owners feel as though they are walking in the landscape, observing the passage of the days and the seasons, while enjoying protection from direct sun, wet winters, and summer heat that can reach to 40 degrees. The...

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