Guzhai was designed as a generational home, a gathering place for children, parents, grandparents, and all members of an international client’s extended
family. A longtime appreciator of modern design, he approached our team looking to carefully craft a biophilic living space for his wife and young twins, as
well as a home to entertain and host visiting friends and family.
At the project’s inception, a unique challenge presented itself – a language barrier between the architect and client. Our limited exposure to Mandarin
created a unique opportunity, inspiring our team to communicate early design concepts with the client (a knowledgeable architect and engineer himself)
through images, drawings, plans, diagrams, and a 3d physical model. Through translators and the addition of a bilingual engineer and builder to the project
team, design ideas were successfully communicated, and a high level of trust developed. These unique relationships led to the creation of a strong concept
and aesthetic, and the addition of native Mandarin speaking staff to the Feldman team proved invaluable.
The private site is situated on a flag lot, surrounded by open space with mature perimeter trees and vegetation. The 4,890sqft structure consists of two
forms layered perpendicularly. On the ground level, a kitchen, dining, and family room flow naturally into outdoor living spaces, centered around
double-height living room. A covered patio at the rear of the house and trellis at the front foster a sense of openness; the surrounding scenery is framed
thoughtfully by architecture, becoming almost transparent. The L-shaped structure nestles a protected, private courtyard and pool between the house and
hillside, which directly connects to the guest suite. The suite is thoughtfully designed as a space for the client’s visiting parents.
Supported by the lower level on one end and the hillside on the other, the private second floor is balanced gracefully atop its lower counterpart. The
primary suite lightly floats above a grove of mature oaks, overlooking distant views of the San Francisco Bay to the north. On the opposite end, the twins’
rooms mirror each other as to “not to favor one over the other”, equally divided by a shared study nook. A double height stone clad fireplace connects the
first and second floors, and wood slats splash patterns of daylight onto a rich material palette.
A subterranean level houses the office, guest room, and nanny suite, complimented by lightwells that welcome natural light into each space. The office
connects via an outdoor staircase to the covered patio – a primary outdoor gathering space for friends and family, with a fireplace and moveable wood
slatted screens allowing flexibility to control exposure to southern sunlight.
The home’s materiality is subtle and refined, allowing natural textures to create visual contrast. The exterior is clad with bush-hammered travertine and
reclaimed Ulin wood siding. A simple, warm interior palette of white oak paneling, black Fenix laminate, and white marble with brass accents allows the
surrounding landscape to add color and light. Understated, comfortable furnishings accented with the daughter’s hand sketches create a warm, open,
materially rich space deeply and intimately connected to the site and its occupants.
Guzhai employs passive design strategies to heat and cool the structure. The home is situated to respond to the wind, sun, and the thermodynamics of
site – cool air moves through large glass walls that open entirely. Additionally, the naturally cool subterranean level connects to the upper levels vertically
through a 3-story open stair that delivers cold air up and out the second story hall windows. The hall windows are used to control the temperature of
the home, often adjusted depending on the time of day and year. The home is heated with radiant heat, and an all-electric mechanical system is backed
up by a 40kw solar array and battery backup.