Miner Road by Faulkner Architects

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    Striking materials and a sustainability focus collide in California with the work of Faulkner Architects.

    A meandering trip down Miner Road at the fringe of Orinda, will lead you to a steep site intermitted by native oak trees. Not so long ago, a house sat here in the shade of its neighbouring oak trees and deeply out of touch with its surrounds. Now a steel sculpture has stolen its thunder and foundations, home to a family of four seeking a bit of extra space and an environmentally-orientated place to live.

    For a couple both working in the sustainability sector, a home that ignored the ecological significance of where it stood just wasn’t going to cut it. Recognising the opportunity for design experimentation, they engaged Faulkner Architects to remodel for an energy-efficient family home specific to its landscape and climate, with minimal impact on it.

    In a bid to bring sustainability to the front, Faulkner Architects focused their energy on unique materials – namely the unique Cor-Ten steel. The durable, fire-proof, no-maintenance skin wraps the brutalist exterior and features prominently inside. Faulkner Architects director Greg Faulkner describes the “visually-changing” steel as the core of the connection between inside and out and as “rusting masses” that “refresh overtime it rains, just like the landscape”.

    “Those big trees felt like refuge before we even built anything. They’re a free material that became part of the house.”

    Director of Faulkner Architects, Greg Faulkner

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    The emphasis on natural patina was reflected indoors through the unfinished white oak on the walls, ceilings and floors. The cathedral glass opening in the living space is devoted to flirting with the immediate foliage, allowing dappled light to coat the space and retain warmth. This is also where the bones of the old home reveal themselves, in the concrete fireplace that was, according to Greg, the “structural and metaphorical base” from which the rest of the home was built.

    This sustainable stronghold is a lesson in the synergy of environment and design, anchored by the existing and driven by the collaborative efforts of client and architect.

    This piece originally appeared in est magazine issue 31.

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