Oakland House | Kanner Architects | Architecture

Oakland House Kanner Architects

Oakland House is located on a down sloping site high above the San Francisco Bay.
The home was designed to capture the magnificent vista that spans the Golden Gate to the Bay Bridge. Floor to ceiling glass clears the way to unobstructed views.

The predominantly south-southwest orientation required deep overhangs to cut down glare and soften the light quality in the home. Spare and rigorously modern in its aesthetic, the home has only a handful of materials and even fewer colours.

Concrete floors, steel and glass windowsystems, and a mostly white composition of cabinetry and furnishings define the minimalist composition. Faced with its own set of logistical problems the design posed challenges from every aspect. The clients were clear in their vision of having a modern haven, simplistic and uncluttered. There was the risk that the strict building regulations on new builds and the sheer geography of the site could compromise these ideals.

Spare and uncluttered, minimalism is as much about lifestyle as design and this residence is meticulously modern. Perched on a steeply sloping plot within the Oakland hills, the architects had a number of factors challenging their design. The owners knew they wanted open, light-filled spaces composed of concrete, steel and lots of glass to take advantage of fantastic views of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. They found a shared design vision in architects Stephen Kanner and Damian LeMons of Santa Monica's Kanner Architects, a firm known for its modernist approach to site and light.

"Most of our work tends toward the rectilinear," says Kanner, "but the clients told me from the beginning that they wanted curves." This seeming incompatibility proved to be a positive element in the collaboration. The area itself originally formed part of the Broadway Terrace that suffered in the firestorms of 1991 therefore strict regulations imposing height limitations and setbacks were imposed on new builds. Rectangular shapes would simply not be allowed. Kanner managed to stay within the height limits by stepping the house down the hill in two sections connected with a narrow steel-and-glass bridge, and solved the setback issue by using sweeping curves for the perimeter walls, forming a simple hourglass shape.

The spaces flow together to form a logical whole with great flexibility. There is a clear expression of hierarchy between the main living space, the bedroom downstairs and the secondary spaces. The clients were clear in their requirements of having unfettered access to the views in their main living quarters, which occupy the entire lower levels of the house.
Kanner concurs: "Our work is light and warm, though typically less whimsical than what the clients had in mind. But it turned into an interesting collaboration and a bold personal statement--a true expression of the owners and the site."

The house is approached from the top of the hill, where a low-profile carport with glass walls lets the owners enjoy the view from the very moment of arrival. The materials were kept to a simple palette of plaster, concrete, glass and steel. Translucent elements such as steel cable have been used for the stair railing, floor-to-ceiling glass walls on the bridge expand upon the guiding themes of openness and light. The exterior smooth walls are covered in smooth plaster, alternating with a scratch coat of plaster thickly applied in a herringbone pattern on the curved walls intended to catch the light in a variety of different ways.