American practice Craig Steely Architecture has fenced this house in California with a curvy wall, which keeps views focused upward rather than outward. The Roofless House is located in Atherton, a Silicon Valley town that sits just down the road from Stanford University. This suburban city is characterized by mature trees and large homes hidden behind fences.
The climate is temperate, almost Mediterranean and the owner of this house wanted a home where she could live outdoors as much as possible. Complicating this desire was that the lot is long and narrow and her view on all sides was of the backs of the neighboring houses which (like most typical suburban houses) are huge and blank. But above these neighboring houses, the mature tree canopy and sky were alive, constantly changing and breathtaking. Focusing on this view “up” rather than horizontally “out”, Craig Steely has created a seemingly roofless house that surrounds the living spaces by huge outdoor courtyards that direct the view up.
The living spaces are open planned and blur the connection between indoor/outdoor with retractable sliding doors and continuous materials like travertine on the floors and cedar on the walls. But what sets this building apart is the continuous curving wall that surrounds it. It fully encloses the house, blocking out the less desirable views, focusing on the more meaningful views and creating interest as the sunlight and shadows move through the day along its surfaces. At it’s most elemental, the curving wooden wall creates a visual backdrop seen through the interior landscape of plants and birch trees, animated by the shadows moving across it all day.
Unlike its neighbors, this house is not fenced off at its street perimeter. A meadow of native grasses flows from the sidewalk with existing oaks, redwoods and newly planted birch trees flowing inside and outside of the curving wooden wall.