The California Shotgun House design was my entry into the 2022 ACSA Steel Competition. As a studio we were given a parcel of land in Napa California to design a mid-density residential complex which adhered to the parameters of the Open-Category of the competition. This was a particularly fun project for me as I had never designed anything for this climate before. Furthermore, being my final college project, I was determined to be particularly bold and experimental with my design and presentation.
THE CALIFORNIA SHOTGUN HOUSE
The California Shotgun House design is the culmination of careful climate consideration, a measured reaction to an important but restrictive site, and an exploration of the unique structural possibilities and site-specific solutions provided by steel.
The site selected for this design is a lush lot on a small ravine in-between a Napa neighborhood and a vineyard. It hosts an important seasonal stream called Redwood Creek. This creek, while only occasionally containing water is important for the local natural drainage systems, and furthermore protected by law. Due to this creek and the setbacks created by it, traditional construction methods are not only inappropriate, by legally impossible. For this reason, the California Shotgun House is designed to contact the ground as little as possible. By keeping hardscape to a minimum, hanging the homes over the creek, and minimizing invasive structural elements, an exceptional amount of living space can be created while leaving Redwood Creek and the ecology it supports largely undisturbed.
These design tenants come together to produce a challenge specifically suited to the structural qualities of steel. Using a unique “Y” shaped structure and long horizontal members an exceptionally large cantilever can be created. On it’s far end, steel cable ties the home’s cantilever up and back. This top member is held back by the other end of the “Y” which itself is tethered down to the hill on the building’s near end. Operating like a truss, this sturdy system creates a platform which is almost entirely suspended above the creek. Furthermore, because of the way this platform is attached to the structure, it is also capable of swaying, instead of crumbling, in the event of an earthquake. Lastly, placed on top of this platform is a steel tube frame skeleton which, would remain completely solid during movement.
Aside from achieving these site goals, this suspension creates exciting experiential opportunities as well. The elevation of the floor plane, in combination with the floor plan design, draws users down the length of the building to a spectacular vista of the seasonally changing vineyard. These buildings are oriented in a way however, not only to take advantage of this site-specific view, but also to take advantage of the unique passive cooling and heating opportunities available in middle-California.
The Napa region actually requires heating most of the year. Utilizing California’s notoriously clear skies, each building is oriented to let in at least four hours of southern sunlight each day. The south facing hallways that receive this light are covered in thick concrete tiles. These tiles capture the heat during the day and release it during the night providing an adjustable passive heating system. On days when the home requires cooling, the south facing curtains can be closed and the west and east windows can be opened. Taking advantage of valley winds, the long hallway now allows a breeze to flow all the way through the home in the same exact way the southern shotgun home does.
THE CALIFORNIA SHOTGUN HOUSE
This design situates five buildings on one suburban Napa lot. Each building contains two identical units which are stacked on top of each other. Each individual unit has a gross square footage of 1,990 sqft. The complex contains10 units with a total gross square footage of 19,000 sqft.
The net dimensions for each unit are:
450 sqft. – Living Room
180 sqft. – Kitchen
180 sqft. – Bedroom 1
190 sqft. – Bedroom 2
100 sqft. – Bathroom
110 sqft. – Office
057 sqft. – Closets
415 sqft. – Circulation
054 sqft. – Mudroom
032 sqft. – Mechanical
Each unit is allotted 2 parking spaces. 8 more spots are provided for guests for a total of 28 off-street parking spaces.
The lot has never before been built on and currently has no address. It sits on the border of a neighborhood and a vineyard and marks the very edge of Napa. Its coordinates are: 38.31516148345535, -122.33216327865362
The gross square footage of the lot is 108,200 sqft. The footprint of these interventions and their associated parking only take up 25,100 sqft. After the introduction of 10 homes and parking, about 77% of the lot is left untouched, preserving the natural landscape.