Deeply embedded in a context of coastal sand dunes, DUNE is a weekend house that allows sand to drift over and around it. The house is a synthetic dune, its tilting floors and roof constrained by the angle of repose of the local sand drifts.

This weekend house for two surfers is in Pajaro Dunes, a beach community on the Monterey Bay characterized by the extensive sand dunes that fringe the beach for miles. These continuous, hummocky hills of sand, held together by beachgrass and other vegetation, provide specialized habitats and help to protect the beach from erosion.

Throughout the world, dunes face destruction through land development and recreational usages, as well as alteration to prevent the encroachment of sand onto inhabited areas. In response, this project is thematically and morphologically integrated into its site, reinforcing and stabilizing the dune environment.

The project begins by remediating a previously developed lot, and combines strategic architectural interventions that restore and conserve natural processes while creating conditions for future natural processes. In broad strokes, the house form was designed using a generative growth strategy that embeds a variety of specific behaviors. One of the primary behavior controls manages the potential slope of a wall or roof as it meets the adjacent dune. The maximum angle permitted is 33 degrees, which is the critical angle of repose for sand. In other words, this is the steepest angle that a sand dune can have before material on the slope face slides. This behavior results in an overall faceted form that seamlessly merges into its rolling site, becoming a synthetic dune, alternately covered and exposed by the shifting sands. This form-finding approach is reinforced with ‘soft techniques’ of dune stabilization, including the planting of erosion-control vegetation, and the construction of dune walkways.

A triangular core (in plan), with one face oriented towards the ocean view, inaugurates the rings of growth that accrete to form the house. Floor and ceiling are erratic mirror-conditions, dividing from the original triangle at the central prismatic lightwell and then meeting again at the perimeter of the house. Each successive ring of growth results from the general structure for expansion in three-dimensions being inflected and differentiated by chance-driven activity. Local behavior controls at each ring offer opportunities to influence the stochastic development.

The 2,400 square foot two-bedroom house is clad in vernacular reclaimed redwood shingle, bleached to the color of driftwood by the sun and salt air. The hourglass contour of the plan coalesces with the adjacent dunes to shape two semi-enclosed external rooms or courtyards. Once inside, the house opens towards the view, and drifts towards the ocean. The floor, composed of large sloping facets lined with reclaimed hemlock boards, is an internal landscape that encourages casual weekend lolling and contemplation of the Pacific.

LOCATION: Pajaro Dunes, California

PROGRAM: 3,400 sf house

AWARDS: AIA San Francisco, 2012 Unbuilt Architecture Honor Award

Keuning, David (ed.), " Notice Board," in Mark 39, Aug/Sep 2012, pg. 14
Futagawa, Yoshio (ed.), "Dune" in GA Houses 125: Project 2012, March 2012, pp. 106-109