Nestled amidst a neighbourhood of single story bungalows in Venice, California, the Solar Umbrella Residence boldly establishes a precedent for the next generation of California modernist architecture. The Solar Umbrella transforms an existing 650 square foot bungalow into a 1900 square foot residence equipped for responsible living in the twenty-first century.
Inspired by Paul Rudolph's Umbrella House of 1953, the Solar Umbrella provides a contemporary reinvention of the solar canopy - a strategy that provides thermal protection in climates with intense exposures. Integral to the design are principles of sustainability and the building takes advantage of as many opportunities for sustainable living as possible. Passive and active solar design strategies render the residence 100% energy neutral. Recycled, renewable, and high performance materials and products are specified throughout.
In this multi award winning house sustainability was made a top priority, with the goal being responsible living for the 21st century. The Solar Umbrella home was built for principals Lawrence Scarpa and Angela Brooks to house themselves and their young son.
The existing 600 square foot structure built in 1923 was retained and remodelled despite being considered a tear down. A bold display of solar panels wrapping around the south elevation and roof becomes the defining formal expression of the residence. In addition to this photovoltaic array, the home's green aspects include solar hydronic heating panels, a storm-water retention system, and an airy, open design, with environmentally sound materials throughout. Many of the finishes are highly unconventional. Eco-friendly and cost-effective building materials that are traditionally hidden from view are repositioned here as unusual and aesthetically appealing design elements.
Scarpa judges that It is architecture, the building design and how people experience it that is important. The green aspect is just another layer. Being environmentally aware when designing buildings should be conducted as a matter of course.
Strong visual and physical links are made between the interior and exterior. The architects have conceived the outdoor spaces as rooms in their own right and there is a clear interlocking of the two, blurring the boundaries. There is a feeling of transparency that runs throughout the house, an unbroken visual corridor passes from front to back, which gives the whole building a weightless quality. The house gives the impression of sitting lightly on the land. Light penetrates the interior of the residence at several locations. A series of stepped roofs, glazed walls, and clerestory windows broadcast light from multiple directions.
But even considering all of Solar Umbrella's individual sustainable features, none can compete with the simple fact that the architects' comprehensive, holistic approach to the design raises the whole well above the sum of its parts. Careful, thorough consideration of environmental, livability, and aesthetic factors at every step of the design and implementation have produced a true exemplar of sustainable design excellence.
ARCHITECT: PUGH & SCARPA ARCHITECTS