2 Award-Winning Examples of Sonoma County’s Best Home Architecture
They sit on opposite ends of Sonoma County — one literally straddling the Marin County line and the other a few miles south of the Mendocino County line on the far north coast. But both are uniquely Sonoma in vernacular and represent some of the best new residential architecture north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
One is called Owl House and sits comfortably in a hillside bowl, with views of western Marin and Sonoma counties. The other is on a meadow in the historic southern part of Sea Ranch. Both are contemporary, highly sensitive to their placement in the natural setting, and both were singled out for top honors at the recent Redwood Empire chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
The awards, held every two years, recognize outstanding design work submitted by one of the Chapter’s 158 members or an outside architect with a project within the Chapter’s sphere, an area once commonly referred to as “The Redwood Empire”. It includes Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, Humboldt, Del Norte, Siskiyou, Modoc, and Trinity counties.
Fifteen projects – residential, commercial and public use, built and unbuilt – received awards at ceremonies last month. Some winners have replaced structures lost in the 2017 wildfires, marking a changing vineyard landscape in the wake of so much devastation.
Only MAD Architecture’s Owl House in Petaluma, Sea Ranch Meadow II by Turnbull Griffin Haesloop in Berkeley, and a small spa and retreat in a Napa Valley vineyard by Signum Architecture in St. Helena received the highest honors.
But the judges recognized a number of other projects with awards of merit, the second-highest honour. They included the new science classroom building at Cardinal Newman High School designed by Quattrocchi Kwok Architects of Santa Rosa, a six-story green parking lot in Palo Alto designed by RossDrulisCusenbery Architecture of Sonoma, and a reconstructed Nuns Canyon Fire House in the Sonoma Valley. by Mork. Ulnes Architects of San Francisco.
Merit awards also went to Weddle Gilmore Architects of Scottsdale, Arizona, for the renovation of the former Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa; V and BAR Architects + Interiors of San Francisco for the new Fountaingrove Golf Club; and Asquared Studios of Santa Rosa for an adobe house in Sonoma with a pagoda-style roof.
The judging team was made up of architects from the Washington, DC chapter of the American Institute of Architects, said Carissa Greene, executive director of the Santa Rosa-based Redwood Empire Group.
Although based on the opposite coast, DC Architects are all familiar with Sonoma County, especially from studying the visionary Sea Ranch in architecture school.
“Sonoma County is on the map now,” Greene said. “We are a destination. Of course, we are known for our food and our drinks, but also for our architecture. »
Sonoma County’s dramatic, diverse landscape and ever-abundant open space can be an architect’s dream palette.
Growing from the meadows
Mary Dooley, co-principal with her husband, Chris Lynch, with MAD Architecture in Petaluma, created a contemporary compact retirement home for two Palo Alto graphic designers on the county line west of Petaluma.
The house was designed to respect the land and its history as part of the old Olompali land grant, which stretched between Novato and Petaluma. The land grant was once held by Camilo Ynitia, a 19th century leader of the Coast Miwoks and the last Hoipu, or leader, of the Miwok community living in Olompali. He was the only Native American in the northern end of Alta California to receive a land grant during the period of Mexican rule.
An old fence line, left over from the days of the rancho, remains on the property. Out of respect for the property’s history, Dooley chose to maintain it and designed the house to follow the fence rather than across it, which meant creating an angle at one end.
The house sits in a bowl-shaped depression in the land, which naturally insulates it from the noise of the road below and the winds that regularly cross the Petaluma Gap. The house is surrounded by native grasses near a grove of blue oaks and sculptural outcrops of serpentine.
Dooley said the site spoke to him, saying, “We all grow up on the prairies here.” She regularly consults the field when setting up and orienting a structure.
To maximize the views over the valley and up the hill, she sloped the roof at both ends, creating a shape that makes the house look like it’s about to take flight, like hawks and red-headed vultures chasing the earth . Solar panels are installed on one half of the roof to capture as much sunlight as possible.