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Valley Center House


The client, a sec­ond gen­er­a­tion cit­rus rancher, es­tab­lished this grove in 1975 to re­place a ranch that the fam­ily had op­er­ated for 65 years in Or­ange County, CA. The site, in the foothills of Mt. Palo­mar, was se­lected for its west­ern ori­en­ta­tion and rel­a­tively steep topog­ra­phy to help pre­vent frost dam­age dur­ing the in­fre­quent freez­ing weather that strikes the area.
The new 2800 sf house re­places an early 20th cen­tury ranch house that burned in a wild­fire in No­vem­ber, 1996. It was ex­pected to serve not just as a res­i­dence for the rancher but also as a guest house for hol­i­day and va­ca­tion vis­its from his three grown daugh­ters and their fam­i­lies. Due to the loss of the first house, the client re­quested that a fire re­sis­tant con­struc­tion sys­tem would be em­ployed for the house.

Two wings of sleep­ing quar­ters, rel­a­tively opaque to the ex­te­rior flank a large liv­ing/​din­ing room that is en­tirely glazed. These three build­ing el­e­ments form a court­yard that open to the grove be­low and the coastal view be­yond. A swim­ming pool notches into one side of the court­yard for re­lief on hot sum­mer days. The ex­te­rior of the

two wings is sheathed in cor­ru­gated con­crete board; large open­ings to the court­yard are cov­ered with bi­fold­ing per­fo­rated metal pan­els to both pro­tect from the threat of fire and al­low air through on hot nights.

The perime­ter of the build­ing is pro­grammed as the pri­mary en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tion­ing sys­tem of the build­ing. This is achieved in two ways; in the re­frac­tory ca­pac­ity of the cor­ru­gated con­crete board (in­ert, non-con­duc­tive, non­re­ac­tive) and in the re­flec­tive na­ture of the formed alu­minum pan­els. In ad­di­tion to pro­tect­ing the large glass sur­faces from di­rect sun­light (and wind dri­ven em­bers), the pan­els cre­ate huge shaded ar­eas im­me­di­ately out­side the main liv­ing space. These in­ter­me­di­ated spaces al­low the house to re­main open with­out be­ing ex­posed; they func­tion like a storm vestibule does in a cold cli­mate.