Montecito Residence

Questions of contextual design become fundamentally different when an architect is designing in nature, as opposed to an urban or even a suburban or semi-rural environment. What are appropriate stylistic, color and material choices to suit a given setting and how does one make a structure sustainable and unique and but also something that reflects its surroundings and responds to environmental conditions?

Montecito Residence from a distance

Montecito Residence - Tom Kundig / Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects

This award-winning desert house by by OSKA works with the issues of site, context and livability at a number of scales and in a variety of ways. From a distance, the house reflects the slopes, curves and colors of the rolling hills around it. Up close, the sharp angles cast strong shadows but the modern lines are softened by the use of a natural made-to-weather set of concrete and steel materials.

Swimming pool at Montecito

Side view of Montecito

All of these moves are more than mere design affectations – the large overhangs are essential to keeping the modern rustic house cool in this desert-like environment by providing shade by also channeling the winds that come up over the hillside in order to naturally ventilate the home. The heavy-duty materials are intentionally burn-resisent because the area is prone to forest and brush fires.

Led by Tom Kundig of Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects, “Montecito Residence” is a singular exercise in balancing geometric built forms with natural settings.

Here’s what the architects have to say about this striking project:

“Montecito Residence is a single-family home set in the fire-prone Toro Canyon. The owners wanted a house that minimized its use of scarce natural resources and recognized the challenging environmental conditions of the area. The design solution is a house that functions as an umbrella to shield the house from the sun and allows naturally cool offshore breezes to move through the space. The house is made of simple, fire resistant materials. Steel will be allowed to oxidize and concrete will be toned to allow the house to blend into the landscape.”