The San Francisco office of CCS Architecture, directed by Cass Calder Smith, has completed four writers’ cabins, collectively called the Diane Middlebrook Memorial Writers’ Residence, at the celebrated Djerassi Resident Artists Program in rural Woodside California. The four sleep/work cabins are designed with sustainable features, including a freestanding, pre-engineered steel roof assembly that carries solar panels. Beginning occupancy in spring 2012, the new structures are designed for month-long residencies by writers, poets, composers and playwrights. They will increase the program's capacity by 50 percent.
"These are the first structures to have been purpose-built for the artist program. We had to make a significant statement," said Dale Djerassi, founding trustee of the Djerassi Resident Artist Program. "I personally feel they are at least as spectacular as we envisioned. Everyone is extremely enthusiastic."
The studios, arrayed under the steel canopy, are sited to maximize the spectacular setting in the rural Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean. All are aimed at the southern and western views but skewed a few degrees from each other, giving the arrangement a looseness that contrasts with the linear rigidity of the roof. Clad in unfinished, red cedar boards that will age over time, the cabins feature large, sliding glass doors and private outdoor spaces. The northeast-facing sides contain clerestory windows angled towards the surrounding ridge lines and trees. Rectangular holes in the steel canopy create patterns of sun and shadows and align with skylights in the cabins, giving each unit a window to the sky.
"We wanted to foster the creative process but also create a micro-community for the writers within the ranch," says Smith. "The cabins have visual and acoustical privacy, and each has its own epic view, yet they stand in close proximity under a unifying roof."
The 280-square-foot cabins, each of which includes a bathroom, are compact to minimize the impact on the land. The main area for working receives warm southern sun, an antidote to the area's cool climate and frequent fog; sleeping nooks are behind, away from the strong light. CCS Architecture, which partially donated its design services, supplied carpet and porcelain bath tiles for the project, from samples collected in its office over the years. The materials range in color, pattern and texture and were composed in the field to create a different scheme for each unit.
CCS adhered to the Build It Green program's established GreenPoint Rating system, which is the standard for San Mateo County. While a minimum of 50 points is required for new construction in the county, the new cabins received a rating of 87 points.
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