2014 Recipient | AIA Housing Awards

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Informal House | Notes of Interest

The idea for this house was not to blur the distinction from indoor to outdoor with big walls of glass (a la mid-century modern) but to intensify the quality of each. What glass there is is configured in one of two key ways - as oversized sliding glass doors (with integrated vent panels above) that connect white box rooms to the garden and generic aluminum sliding windows set high up to induce cross ventilation. Supplemental cooling is needed over the extended hot dry summers and is provided through fan assisted earth tubes located ten feet below ground. The family sees daily life as an opportunity for improvisation and the collection of open ended indoor and outdoor spaces support this objective. Movies are screened on the wall of the central courtyard and table tennis played in the living room.

Sustainable choices facilitate the client’s interest in indoor outdoor living. Exposed materials with a high thermal mass - polished concrete floors and 15mm gypsum board - take advantage of the significant diurnal temperature swing in this coastal dry Mediterranean desert climate. A cool white roof, easily accessed for cleaning minimizes solar gain - critical in this sunny climate. Green roofs insulate the lower roofs while they strengthen the articulation between activity spaces and service spaces.


This house was custom designed for a family of four. The whole was achieved for $400/sf and deliberately favored modest materials and assemblies for their sensibility as much as their economy.

Additional Credits

  • Structural Engineer: CW Howe Associates
  • Contractor: William Kent Development, Inc.
  • Photo Credit: © Eric Staudenmaier

Informal House

Category: One and Two Family Custom Residences

Jury Comments

This house perfectly addresses the idiosyncratic needs of the client with a series of highly inventive yet simple design moves. The architecture is a product of clear original thinking. Playful white volumes with wood service chests between.

2014 Housing Awards Jury

  • Nancy Ludwig, FAIA, Chair
  • ICON architecture, inc.
  • Charlestown, Massachusetts
  • David Barista
  • Building Design+Construction
  • Arlington Heights, Illinois
  • Louise Braverman, FAIA
  • Louise Braverman Architect
  • New York City
  • Jean Rehkamp Larson, AIA
  • Rehkamp Larson Architects, Inc.
  • Minneapolis

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