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An audaciously modern house bringing steel among the oaks in California
Faulkner Architects creates Miner Road: an oasis of design, sustainability, and technology in the hinterland of San Francisco
Miner Road is a winding road that crosses a patch of greenery in the outskirts of Orinda, a town in the hinterland of San Francisco. But Miner Road is also the name of a zero-maintenance sustainable house located here among the rows of oaks and covered in weathering steel. It was designed by Faulkner Architects, a studio based in Truckee, California, at the behest of a couple who is very attentive to environmental ethics. Both working in the sustainability sector, the spouses wanted for themselves and their two children an energy-efficient ecological house, with a strong designer personality. Let’s discover it together.
Miner Road is in a gently sloping property of 8 acres (about 3 hectares) at the feet of the Oakland Hills. To reduce the environmental impact of the villa, the Faulkner studio conducted “an observation of the landscape, the weather, the uses, and the models already existing on the site”. This study was instrumental in finding designer and technological solutions allowing tenants to lead a more sustainable life.
The exterior in weathering steel gives the house an ever-changing rusty look that perfectly matches the colours of the ground and the autumn foliage. The rough and durable surface in weathering steel protects from the rain, doesn’t require any maintenance, and is relatively cost-effective. According to Greg Falkner, the building’s beauty lies in the fact that “this rusty steel masses are renewed every time it rains, just like the landscape”.
Technically, the project is a restoration of an ancient pre-existing house, that’s why for the new layout they used an original approach. An old fireplace was wrapped in cement to act as the main structural element that supports the new structure. This solution allowed to avoid new ground-levelling and to leave the hillside in its natural state. In the shadow of ancient oaks, the new dwelling is in an intimate relationship with the surrounding trees that seem to be an integral part of the project. “Those big trees looked like a shelter even before we started building anything”, Greg Faulkner explained, “free material” provided by nature that in a sense became “part of the house”.
The dialogue with nature is visible also in the interiors. The house is accessed from the North through a covered hallway. Inside, we find bright rooms, high ceilings, and a very minimal but elegant palette of colours and materials. The unfinished white oak of the floors and ceilings, used with darker or lighter tones to represent the growth of trees, is a material counterpoint to the basalt of the flooring, the plaster of the walls, and the weathering steel”.
The main living area features an incredible view on the exterior, thanks to an over three-metres-wide pocket glass wall. Here, technology takes centre stage, with the Reynaers windows: big insulated panels in aluminium that shelter from the cold and reduce energy consumption.
But Miner Road is littered with technological expedients: just think that the bathrooms and the laundry room rely on a rainwater collection system, or that electricity comes from an 8.1-kW photovoltaic system.
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