2014 Recipient | AIA Small Project Awards

Page Tools

Small House in an Olive Grove | Notes of Interest

A “diamond in the rough,” this precisely detailed modern structure sits in a rustic hillside. 850 square feet of interior space are anchored to the steep slope between a series of retaining walls. Cascading exterior decks are each linked to an interior space. The act of at once embracing the hillside and relating inside and outside at every level is an ambitious concept for such a small structure, yet the one least intrusive to the natural topography.

The central concrete wall is both a key programmatic and structural element, dividing public from private spaces and providing all needed structural force for this area of frequent earthquakes. Pouring a large concrete wall on a steep site with limited access set up one degree of difficulty, but what the award recipient asked the contractor to do in terms of detail took this to another level. The front door and all of the sliding panels are recessed flush into the wall, as are the flashing details at the roof. With very little tolerance for error, the award recipient asked for a very high quality surface.

The scientist client has an apiary and farms the adjacent olive groves as part of Sonoma’s “locavore” movement. For the landscape, the award recipient collaborated directly with her experimental plantings.

The planting of a singular lavender flower is specific to the taste of their honey, but it also draws out the natural tones of the dry, northern California landscape working with stained redwood and zinc. The steep hillside was highly eroded. To improve on storm water retention and erosion/silt issues, grading and planting were used along with retaining walls. Completely “off the grid”, a 1500SF solar array provides power.

Additional Credits

  • Structural Engineers: Karen Tysinger, Tysinger & Associates Structural Engineers
  • Landscaping: Peter Jacobsen, Jacobsen Landscaping
  • Civil Engineer: Kristine Pillsbury, P.E., C S W|S T 2
  • Facade Engineer: Steve Weissberg, P.E., Weir/Andrewson Associates, Inc.
  • General contractors: David Warner, RedHorse Constructors
  • Photo Credit: © Elliott Kaufman Photography

Small House in an Olive Grove

  • Architect: Wendy Evans. Joseph, FAIA+ Heidi Richardson, AIA
  • Firm: Cooper Joseph Studio + Richardson Architects
  • Location: Geyserville, CA

Jury Comments

Very refined material palette, with volumes and spatial sequences that sit comfortably in its environment. Beautifully detailed and executed. Compelling form, rich materiality and an appealing spatial complexity merge to create a strong, site-specific piece of architecture.

2014 AIA Small Project Awards Jury

  • Linda Reeder, AIA, Chair
  • Linda Reeder Architecture
  • New Haven, Connecticut
  • Deb Silber
  • Fine Homebuilding Magazine
  • Newtown, Connecticut
  • Rene Gonzalez, AIA
  • Rene Gonzalez Architect
  • Miami, Florida
  • Lisa Tilder, AIA
  • Ohio State University
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Craig Scott, AIA
  • IwamotoScott Architecture
  • San Francisco, California

Footer Navigation

Copyright & Privacy

  • © The American Institute of Architects
  • Privacy