Box on the Rock Residence by Schwartz and Architecture

Box on the Rock Residence by Schwartz and Architecture

Architects: Schwartz and Architecture
Location: Sonoma, California, USA
Year: 2015
Area: 2,000 ft²/ 186 m²
Photo courtesy: Bruce Damonte

With an economy of means, this simple form morphs to amplify the experience of the dramatic site and create an expansive feeling home that belies its small footprint. Each adjustment to the diagrammatic box negotiates the functional and environmental needs to foster self-contained and site-specific living with a minimal environmental impact.


The tightly constrained footprint of the affectionately named “Box on the Rock” is a response to a limited budget and difficult site. Shallow underground hillside waterways run across the site often daylighting in unexpected and unwanted locations.


These necessitated relatively expensive pier footings thus motivating an extremely efficient 2,000 sq ft footprint. With no initial resources to develop the wild scrub and rock landscape of the 3-acre property, the home becomes a lone outpost settling the higher ground of the larger natural site –a literal box on a rock.


Given these limitations, the architecture of this outpost needs to provide for all indoor and outdoor functions within its area. With the extremes of the wine country microclimate on the exposed site, this becomes an even more critical requirement for year-round comfort.


The central courtyard and the cantilevered deck are strategically carved out of the diagrammatic box to ensure that over the course of the day, temperate options for both sun and shade are always available. In particular, the geometry of the overhang at the front cantilevered deck and the inward angle of its exterior glass walls are carefully calibrated to capture morning sun and winter warming while shielding the internal space from the harshest summer glare.


Later in the day the central courtyard comes alive as the sunniest developed outdoor space, yet one that is naturally cooled by capturing the valley cross breezes.

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