An Off-Grid Goto House Wraps Around a Jewel-Like Courtyard

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By Lucy Wang
Punctured by a glass-enclosed courtyard, this hexagonal, donut-shaped house is filled with light and views from all six sides.

Having worked as an engineer at firms such as Apple and Microsoft, Ken Goto was already well versed in pushing the envelope of innovation when he tapped husband-and-wife duo Lisa Iwamoto and Craig Scott of IwamotoScott Architecture to create his holiday home in Napa, California. 

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Perched high on a clearing, the Goto House overlooks views of the Napa County hills and Lake Berryessa.

Perched high on a clearing, the Goto House overlooks views of the Napa County hills and Lake Berryessa.

Goto, who already owned one of IwamotoScott’s previous works, wanted a similarly contemporary structure for an elevated clearing overlooking spectacular views of forested hills and Lake Berryessa.

Inspired by the breathtaking vistas, the architects used the 360-degree views to shape the design of the sculptural retreat, a 2,300-square-foot hexagonal structure that maximizes indoor/outdoor connection.

The Goto House is sheathed in heavy-gauge steel cladding to protect against the elements and temperature fluctuations.

The Goto House is sheathed in heavy-gauge steel cladding to protect against the elements and temperature fluctuations.

"The house’s design engages the spatial dynamics of its situation through the formal and experiential activation of negative space, relative to conditions of surface, material, view, and landscape," note the architects. 

Avoiding deep foundation piers, the home is set on a reinforced concrete slab that tapers upward around a cantilevered perimeter.

Avoiding deep foundation piers, the home is set on a reinforced concrete slab that tapers upward around a cantilevered perimeter.

An outdoor pool offers refreshing dips with views of hills blanketed with oaks, pines, and manzanita.

An outdoor pool offers refreshing dips with views of hills blanketed with oaks, pines, and manzanita.

The complex geometry was also informed by the home’s four programmatic zones. These spaces include a combined kitchen, dining area, and living room; a master bedroom; a kid’s bedroom; and a yoga room/flex room with a guest bath.

Pocket-sliding glass doors offer seamless connection to the outdoors.

Pocket-sliding glass doors offer seamless connection to the outdoors.

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The house is organized around a diamond-shaped inner courtyard.

The house is organized around a diamond-shaped inner courtyard.

At the center of the home is a glass-walled, rhombus-shaped courtyard that funnels light into the heart of the building, and ensures a constant connection to the landscape throughout the home.

"The central court acts as a glass ‘jewel’ at the heart of the house," say the architects, who styled it in the likeness of a Japanese garden.

"The central court acts as a glass ‘jewel’ at the heart of the house," say the architects, who styled it in the likeness of a Japanese garden.

"As one moves about the house, the spatial experience offered is one of dynamic balance between introversion toward the central court and extraversion toward the surrounding views," explain the architects.

The ceiling slopes upward at the edges of the house to reinforce the sense of expansiveness created by the panoramic views.

The ceiling slopes upward at the edges of the house to reinforce the sense of expansiveness created by the panoramic views.

To not detract from the surroundings, the interior is simply dressed in a minimalist palette of honed concrete slab floors (with in-floor radiant heating), wood paneled ceilings, and white birch walls. Sliding doors emphasize the minimalist aesthetic.

The master bedroom overlooks unobstructed views of Lake Berryessa.

The master bedroom overlooks unobstructed views of Lake Berryessa.

Drawing on his experience in engineering, Goto also sought ways to make his home completely self-sufficient. He installed a rooftop solar array to the detached garage, as well as abattery pack, on-demand hot water and in-floor radiant heating. The off-grid property is fed with fresh water from an on-site spring.

"The panoramic that wraps the house differs significantly on each side, such that the perception and experience of the place changes dramatically as one turns and moves around," add the architects.

"The panoramic that wraps the house differs significantly on each side, such that the perception and experience of the place changes dramatically as one turns and moves around," add the architects.

A look inside the kids' bedroom located on the west side of the home.

A look inside the kids' bedroom located on the west side of the home.

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The guest bedroom features a soaking tub with a full-height window overlooking the deck and landscape beyond.

The guest bedroom features a soaking tub with a full-height window overlooking the deck and landscape beyond.

All four zones open up to covered cedar-lined decks, which maximize California’s great landscape and cooling cross breezes.

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LED ambient downlights allow the home to glow at night.

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Goto House floor plan.

Goto House floor plan.

Goto House diagrams.

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Project Credits:

Architect of Record: IwamotoScott Architecture (@iwamotoscott

Builder/General Contractor: Centric General Contractors

Structural Engineer: Tony Samra, TSA

Civil Engineer: Applied Civil Engineering

Landscape Design: Surfacedesign, Inc.

Cabinetry: Trinity Engineering

Pool: Classic Pools / Val Toland

Window/ Sliding Doors: Reynaers Aluminum