The work of Antoni Gaudi evokes a love/hate relationship with most people; they either love or hate it. However you feel about Gaudi, he was ahead of his time and worked miracles with the technology available at the time.
Gaudi was a prolific Spanish Architect who practiced Catalan Modernism in and around Barcelona, Spain. Perhaps his most famous work is Sagrada Familia, the largest unfinished Roman Catholic Church in the world. Some of you may remember it as a featured icon during the 1992 Summer Olympics that took place in Barcelona. Although construction began in 1882, building continues to this day and completion is anticipated to be in 2026.
Hopefully the Vista Residence won’t take so long.
Laurie is a client of mine who has been a great fan of Gaudi’s works for many years. She approached me with an unusual request: design a contemporary home on a hillside in Vista, California patterned after the architecture of Antoni Gaudi.
Okay – sounds simple enough. Piece of cake…not!
Aside from the Gaudi thing, the Owner requested a few things to be incorporated into the design. These include a Great Room, large Kitchen and Dining Room, an unusual Master Bedroom and Bathroom, a separate office space and two remote Guest Bedrooms, all of which are to surround a large interior shaded courtyard. The central courtyard will also contain a bridge with a fairly large koi pond that will be used to provide passive cooling during the hot summer months.
Fortunately, Laurie’s site is large enough to set the structure away from the street and supplement it with some interesting landscaping. It will support a small orchard, with some of the trees bleeding into the central courtyard and strategically placed planters. The floor plan was “married” to the site after reviewing several determinants including climate, sun angles and views.
Over the course of a couple of weeks I played with the placement of various rooms and spaces along with their adjacencies to other functions to make sure the plan was functional as well as playful. The entrance is very informal and is combined with a floating wall that separates the dining space with interesting views of the central courtyard beyond. The foyer leads to the kitchen separated by a series of thick arches on one side, and the large circular great room on the other. The great room offers spectacular views of the California sunsets and has direct access to the front play area that is adjacent to the main entrance to the house.
From the dining area you enter the loggia, which is basically a sinuous window wall system on the north side that looks out onto the central courtyard. Four large folding doors open to allow the cool air to enter the house and provide direct access to the courtyard. Since the courtyard is relatively bug free, these doors can remain open during the summer months.
Towards the east end of the loggia I placed a playroom/bedroom with access to the kitchen and the orchard to the northeast. The playroom may also be accessed from the bedroom wing from inside the courtyard. On the west end of the loggia I provided a half bath and access to the private office and master bedroom suite. The views from the west end of the loggia are framed by a curvilinear window wall system within the confines of a cozy spatial composition.
The office, master bedroom suite and bedroom can be accessed from the loggia by either ramp or stairway. They sit about 4.5’ higher than the rest of the house, which basically follows the slope of the site. The round private office will support up to three people and shares a two-way fireplace with the master bedroom. The master bedroom is oriented in such a manner to provide spectacular views of the sunset while lying in bed.
Behind the partial-height headboard is the master bathroom. The focal point in this space is a glass block nautilus composed of layer upon layer of colored glass block. I placed the shower and wc within the confines of this enclosure to provide privacy. Outside the nautilus I located the master closet for both long and short time storage. Immediately to the west of the master suite is an indoor spa that has access to an observation deck that looks out towards the west. A series of sliding glass doors separate the spa from the deck and can be in the open position when desired. The deck can also has direct access from the private office.
Laurie wanted the bedroom wing to be separate from the rest of the house and also have access to the courtyard. These bedrooms are separated from the master bathroom by a utility room that serves all areas. The bedrooms themselves replicate one another and contain their own separate bathrooms and walk-in closets.
One of the precepts in the design was to provide an interesting and ever-changing composition wherever you walk in and around the house. Every hallway for example will have a different focal point, and the way the light enters a space will create an interesting palette as it transforms throughout the days and seasons of the year.
Laurie wanted a small guest house for use by friends and family. This space needed to be a bit special, as her Father would be living in it for a season and she wanted the space to match the quality of the main residence. Since the views were spectacular from this location, I placed the Kitchen and Living Space along the front elevation. This space has a tall, sculptural torsion ceiling with exposed random-size wooden slats. An exterior trellis system mitigates the summer sun on the two exposed side.
There is a shared 2-way fireplace between the living Space and the Bedroom. Since this is an open plan, the same curved ceiling is exposed throughout. The end result is a physically small space that feels much larger than it really is.
Above all I want the experience of living in this unusual house to be a joyful one for Laurie and her family. Not sure if it would receive a blessing from Antoni Gaudi. But my client Laurie loves it, and that’s all that matters to me.
Richard Emerson Kaufman is an Architect/Chief Visionary Officer of The Kaufman Collaborative Architects. Experienced in residential, commercial and institutional architecture. Kaufman is committed to helping clients find creative, workable solutions that are cost effective and environmentally responsible.