We have always had a fascination with bridge houses. We are not sure if it is the memories of the Ponte Vecchio - that wonderful Mideval bridge over the Arno River in Florence, Italy allowing commerce in the many shops along its structure. Or possibly it is the way that they gracefully meet the earth allowing the natural landscape to flow under the structure. Or, the way their linear forms contrast with their undulating topography. Or, it could be our fascination with the building typology of the bridge merging with residential housing program elements.
It is probably all of these, so we thought that we would highlight one “bridge house” in our second installment of our Inspirational House series.
This bridge house, designed by Stanley Saitowitz of Natoma Architects, Inc. - completed in 2005, is located in Marin, California. According to Natoma Architects website, the site is a 15 acre parcel with a prominent ravine running through it on a North/South axis. The design solution was to construct a two story bar building perpendicular to this ravine with the Living Areas on the upper floor and the more private bedrooms below on the lower floor. The entrance to the structure is via the long sloping driveway and entrance court up to the upper floor of the Living Area on the Western side of the ravine. The house is clad in Cor-ten Steel plate which naturally patinas to a rich rust color that is particularly suited for the golden straw color of the natural grasses of the hillside and contrasts beautifully with the light, white interiors and open terraces.
Window and door openings in the structure are not articulated as punctures through the solid steel cladding, but as curtain walls of glass and terrace openings that relate to the interior spaces. Further the upper floor has two open courtyards with openings to the sky - one at the entry and one connecting the main residence to the pool & guesthouse.
We particularly like this relationship where the Living Spaces on the Upper Floors have continuous glass walls that look to the North into the open landscape of the hillside while the private Bedroom Spaces on the Lower Floor have continuous glass that look to the South into the contained amphitheater of the landscape. Thus, as the website explains, the two contrasting experiences of the site are framed by the house: one broad and expansive, one defined and closed.
Further, we enjoy the interplay between the Constructed house, the Constructed Landscape and the Natural Landscape. The Natural hillside and ravine appear to remain virtually intact with the Constructed Structure running East/West and Constructed Landscape elements (the Driveway on the West and the Swimming Pool on the East) running parallel to the ravine/hillside and respecting it’s natural topography.