Los Altos-Palo Alto Showcase - Page 2

'AIA Silicon Valley Home Tour' debut kicks off with four cutting-edge modern houses
Los Altos-Palo Alto Showcase
Tour house #4: Palo Alto home by Studio URBIS.  Photo: Matthew Millman

"This is our first home tour that our chapter is having, and we are excited to have these tours lead by architects," says the chapter's director, April Becerra.

From the street, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson's courtyard house looks like a modern ranch, sheathed in western Cedar. From the interior courtyard, though, the house "almost looks like a [glass] curtain wall kind of thing," Mottola says.

The neighborhood is densely packed, he says, so the house was built around an atrium-like courtyard for privacy.

"The Eichlers were one of the inspirations and precedents," he says. "Some of those homes [of the mid-century], the California version of the ranch, really make one-story homes that are livable and that maximize indoors-outdoors living."

The courtyard home's client was also a collaborator, serving as structural engineer. He has worked often with Bohlin Cywinski Jackson.

The challenge, Mottola says, was to create a seismically sound structure that would accommodate the glass-walled courtyard. The different sets of steel columns and laminated wood beams employed accomplish that task, but in a particularly attractive way, he says

"[The client] appreciated the idea of doing something expressive, not gratuitously expressive, but expressive of what the (structural) elements are doing," Mottola says. "The engineering challenge was to get the detail as elegant as we could."

So when you visit, take some time to notice the cruciform shape of some columns, and exposed tie-rods. What helps make the house special, Mottola says, are "those little things that a lot of people don't necessarily see when you're looking at it."

One thing you won't miss is the courtyard's fountain. "In the afternoon or evening, when you open up all the walls around the courtyard," Mottola says, "you get ventilation, of course, but you also hear the sound of the water rippling over the edge of this little fountain. It's just wonderful."

For more on the upcoming 'AIA Silicon Valley Home Tour,' click here.