Not every house comes with a bed suspended in midair from a glass ceiling, but in late architect Mickey Muennig’s longtime Big Sur residence, such eccentricity is only the beginning. Muenning, who was a pioneer of California’s iconoclastic organic architecture movement, designed enough homes in this pristine coastal setting to become known as "the man who built Big Sur." From the early 1970s, Muennig amassed a portfolio of striking houses with unconventional forms that frame scenic views and blend in with the landscape using mostly timber, stone, and glass.
Originally from Joplin, Missouri, Muennig graduated in 1959 from the University of Oklahoma, where he was a student of architect Bruce Goff, a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright. There, Muennig was introduced to the philosophy of organic architecture, a design approach largely credited to Wright, which encourages architects to design buildings that integrate seamlessly with their natural surroundings.
Muennig, who passed away last year at the age of 86, arrived to Big Sur in 1971 after attending a retreat at the Esalen Institute. In 1975, the architect purchased roughly 30 acres on Partington Ridge Road and began designing his own home comprised of three curvaceous, passive solar structures. He started with the 16-foot-diameter glass teepee known as the Glass House, which served as Muennig’s temporary home before it became his studio.
Muennig’s initial purpose for the greenhouse-like structure was to study the effectiveness of passive solar heating and explore the advantages of living in a tiny space. "It was definitely a small place to live," Muennig said in a 2009 Dwell interview. "But I felt happy in it." A bed floats above the live/work area suspended from the glass ceiling by steel rods. A fireplace is built into the stone base of the structure above the concrete floors.
In 1985, Muennig started building the 2,000-square-foot primary residence into the hillside about 50 yards from the Glass House. The main house consists of one large room with a massive skylight that crowns an indoor garden at the center of the living spaces. An open kitchen with a long, undulating countertop and an elliptical island sits to one side of the garden across from a cozy living area with a fireplace and an office with a built-in desk. In one corner of the structure, a hallway leads to a bedroom and bath.
The sprawling property also includes what’s known as the Caretaker House: a two-story structure with a striking spiral staircase and glass walls. Multiple skylights facilitate a further connection with the Big Sur landscape, where craggy, oceanside cliffs become rolling hills covered with redwood and oak tree forests.
50854 Partington Ridge Road in Big Sur, California, is currently listed for $6,950,000 by Jeannie Ford of Sierra Sotheby’s International Realty.
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