Big Sur’s Fall House

As we are about to step into the fall season it is appropriate to visit this breathtaking structure and its stunning location in California’s Big Sur. In 2014, Fougeron Architecture built a 3800-foot home and called it “Fall House.” This three-bedroom home is located on the south coast of Big Sur. It is anchored in the natural beauty and power of this spectacular California landscape. The design strategy embeds the building within the land, creating a structure inseparable from its context. This site offers dramatic views including a 250-foot drop to the Pacific Ocean both along the bluff and the western exposure. This view demands a form more complex than a picture window.

The long, thin volume conforms and deforms to the natural contours of the land and the geometries of the bluff. In this way, the complex structural system applies and defies natural forms to accommodate the siting. The house is cantilevered 12 feet back from the bluff, both to protect the cliff’s delicate ecosystem and to ensure the structure’s integrity and safety. The interior is a shelter, a refuge in contrast with the roughness and immense scale of the ocean and cliff. The house also shields the southern outdoor spaces from the powerful winds that blow from the northeast.

The main body of the house is composed of two rectangular boxes connected by an all-glass library/den. The main entry is located at the top of the upper volume with the living spaces unfolding from the most public to the most private. The living room, kitchen, and dining room are an open plan with subtle changes in levels and roof planes to differentiate the various functions. The lower level is a double cantilevered master bedroom suite offering breathtaking views of the ocean from floor-to-ceiling windows. The glass library/den is the hearth of the house, a room that unites the house inside and out both with its geometry and its transparency.

A one-story concrete wing perpendicular to the house includes a ground floor bedroom, building services, and a green roof. It is the boulder locking the house to the land.  The house has two main facades, the south one is clad in copper which wraps up the wall and over the roof.  Copper-clad roof overhangs protect windows and the front door from the sun and wind of the ocean. The façade to the north is made of all glass and it opens the house to a gorgeous view. Natural daylight in all rooms including the bathrooms is tailored to solar orientation and reduces power loads from artificial lighting. Primary daylight is indirect and comes from the north while southern light is limited and mitigated by an automatic shading system. High-performance glazing reduces solar gain, improves winter comfort, and offers superior thermal performances without sacrificing views.

Radiant hydronic heat eliminates ductwork and allows lower operating temperatures and higher occupant comfort levels. Energy usage is significantly lower and more efficient than traditional forced air systems.

Stack ventilation is naturally facilitated by the building layout. The outside contains drought-resistant and native vegetation which is specifically intended to reduce soil erosion while facilitating new habitats for local wildlife. A vegetated roof reduces the aerial visual footprint and provides added thermal mass/insulation for the occupied space.

On-site wastewater treatment through a septic system paired with efficient plumbing fixtures reduces loads to municipal sewer systems. It differentiates black and grey water. Conversely, fresh water is gathered from an on-site stream that is also not dependent on municipal systems.

Natural daylight in all rooms is tailored to solar orientation and reduces power loads from artificial lighting. Primary daylight is indirect and comes from the north. High-performance glazing reduces solar gains, improves winter comfort, and offers superior thermal performance without sacrificing views.

Stack ventilation is naturally facilitated by the building layout. The open floor plan is connected on multiple levels from the lower master bedroom to the entry at a higher elevation. Automatically controlled operable glazing at the lowest level is coordinated with an exhaust transfer grille at the highest elevation. The pressure and height differential allows the exhaustion of hot air and intake of cool fresh air.

The unique qualities of Big Sur’s Fall House make it a natural wonder surely worth a visit. Imagine the vibrance of the autumn leaves changing color at this time of year. It would be a wonderous trip to be able to wander the many levels of Fall House and feel connected to its natural surroundings. Next time you are in California, make time to visit this inspiring home.

Architecture, combined with nature, creates wondrous structures that are awe-inspiring. “Whether it is Big Sur or Brooklyn, New York, SCARANO ARCHITECT, PLLC appreciates thoughtful design and can make your next project an award winner!” Robert Scarano Jr., owner.

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