This Concrete Abode Stretches Over Giant Boulders

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
A Northern California retreat immerses into the landscape with the guidance of shadow and light.

"Don’t hurt the boulders," the team at Faulkner Architects was told by their client, a New York City–based AIDS researcher who had recently sought out to create a restorative family getaway in Truckee, California.  

Taking the request to heart, the architects were able to construct the home in total deference to the site's existing rocks, and without compromising the design in the least, every single boulder was left in its original place. 

Throughout the site, the original boulders that have been left untouched are evident as the home engulfs them into its design. 

Throughout the site, the original boulders that have been left untouched are evident as the home engulfs them into its design. 

Set on a dramatic edge of an evergreen forest where a spring-fed creek meets the base of an ancient volcano, the home is cantilevered out over several of the boulders, and seems to barely even touch the actual site. 

Large concrete walls provide both privacy and shade.

Large concrete walls provide both privacy and shade.

Although privacy was one of the main priorities of the design, along with meeting the needs of the client's multigenerational family, the thoughtful architecture was also inspired by Junichiro Tanizaki’s essay In Praise of Shadow. On the interior, dark alcoves transition to sunlit spaces, while steel and rift-sawn oak create shadows that bring contrast to the concrete, bluestone, and white gypsum walls—all illuminated by natural light. 

The client requested the design to include a water feature. Instead of a pool that would require tremendous upkeep, the architect was inspired by a pool he saw in Spain to produce a rain channel that is fed by rain and melting snow with a valve that the client can easily control.

The client requested the design to include a water feature. Instead of a pool that would require tremendous upkeep, the architect was inspired by a pool he saw in Spain to produce a rain channel that is fed by rain and melting snow with a valve that the client can easily control.

The exterior features a poetic layering of spaces that highlights the interplay of light and dark. 

The exterior features a poetic layering of spaces that highlights the interplay of light and dark. 

The home was designed for the client's multigenerational family, with each member contributing their own ideas. 

The home was designed for the client's multigenerational family, with each member contributing their own ideas. 

The interior also features a layering of space that can be seen here in the living room. 

The interior also features a layering of space that can be seen here in the living room. 

The interior concrete walls echo the ones on the exterior.

The interior concrete walls echo the ones on the exterior.

The interior has a strong sense of light and dark from the many sources of natural light. 

The interior has a strong sense of light and dark from the many sources of natural light. 

A sense of Japanese minimalist design permeates the home. Tatami mats are now used in a space that leads out to a very zen-like rock garden. 

A sense of Japanese minimalist design permeates the home. Tatami mats are now used in a space that leads out to a very zen-like rock garden. 

The home cantilevers out over a giant boulder which was originally found on the site and incorporated into the design. 

The home cantilevers out over a giant boulder which was originally found on the site and incorporated into the design. 

The side view.

The side view.

A look at the boulder from inside the home. 

A look at the boulder from inside the home. 

One of the home's bedrooms. 

One of the home's bedrooms. 

A view of the sprawling home from the South elevation. 

A view of the sprawling home from the South elevation. 

The floor plan. 

The floor plan. 

The elevations. 

The elevations. 

The site plan.

The site plan.

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: Faulkner Architects, Greg, Faulkner, AIA

Builder/General Contractor: Jones Corda Construction 

Structural Engineer: Endrestudio

Civil Engineer: Shaw Engineering

Landscape Design: Faulkner Architects

Interior Design: CP Interiors

Mechanical Engineer: Aspen Engineering

Energy Modeling: MSA Engineering Consultants

Geotechnical Engineer: Holdredge & Kull 

Photography: Joe Fletcher Photography