Armed with expert craftsmanship, unrestrained creativity and a commitment to the best sustainable building practices, Surfside Projects designs homes that enable clients to engage with the outside as much as the inside.
“My residential designs aren’t stock standard, nor are they conservative,” says director Steve Hoiles. “I care about context and my homes are always respectful of their surrounds.” An ardent believer in the notion that architecture can positively impact the way we live, he takes on only one project at a time and devotes his entire time to it.
Since the inception of his firm 14 years ago, his efforts have centred on the idea that sustainability is the only logical solution for new buildings. Each of the homes he has designed is certified by California Green Point Rated, a third party, unbiased rating system. Further, he completed one of the first platinum rated LEED homes on North America’s West Coast in the year 2010.
Located in Encinitas, California, Avocado Acres House is a 2800 sq ft residence that is the outcome of collaboration between Surfside Projects and architect Lloyd Russell.
Completed in 2016, the construction of the coastal infill project was executed by Alliance Green Builders, a fact that bears further testimony to the design team’s environmental objectives. While the project takes its aesthetic cues from LA’s famed Case Study Houses, its essence lies in addressing the conditions that plague our planet today.
By incorporating sustainable materials, energy efficiencies and environmental sensibilities, the house attempts to minimise its carbon footprint and give back more than it consumes.
In plan, three pavilions generate a U-shaped layout with a central courtyard. Flexible living spaces and unhindered outdoor accessibility form the soul of the design.
“It’s a healthy home perfect for a modern family,” says Hoiles. While the first pavilion is occupied by the living, dining, kitchen and garage, the second pavilion is where the threshold for the private enclosures begins. A master bedroom suite with a luxurious bathroom and walk-in closet occupy the third pavilion.
A bold sloping roof – one which displays a dynamic intermingling of rectilinear and curvilinear geometries – caps the single storey structure from above. An inward-looking scheme ensures privacy from the street, and creates an interior that is in constant engagement with the outdoors. Thus, the house is lent a grand sort of scale and seamlessness of space, despite its small footprint.
In response to the pitched roofs of neighbouring houses, the street elevation of Avocado Acres House reveals stark straight lines and an angular profile. What appears from the outside to be a rectangular roof plan is ultimately exposed as something much different. Inside, a circle of vast proportions intersects the rectangular roof headlong.
The trace of a semicircular arc is left behind, one that hovers over the courtyard. Nine-foot tall sliding glass walls and continuous clerestory glazing allow for the curved profile to be experienced indoors. “Despite the dramatic expression of the roof, it’s the clerestory windows that define the overall scheme. They amplify the internal spatial volume and elegantly allow another visual connection with the outside,” says Hoiles.
The expansive glazing brings in abundant natural light while the clerestory windows create a stack effect. Thus, energy loads are minimal for long periods of the day.
The junction between the public living spaces and the green turf of the courtyard is marked by decked terraces. The interior palette juxtaposes muscular concrete walls with natural wood tones that clad the vaulted ceiling, flooring and cabinetry.
The decision to select organically harvested wood over tree trunks from virgin forests adds to the sustainability quotient and builds the case for the green building certification.
“When Lloyd Russell took my original design concept and presented a curvilinear roof, it was an instant decision to press the go button,” says Hoiles. Though he was impressed with how well the unique shape complemented the rest of the aesthetics, articulating the geometry of the roof and detailing out its construction was not an easy task. “The roof ended up generating some mental gymnastics during both design and construction phases. Curved details seem to inherently create special hurdles.”
With a design that is rooted in the architecture of the past, yet focuses on addressing the environmental concerns of the 21st century, a California Green Point Rated certification becomes a given. Further, a passion for mid-century modernism, and a design mantra of fun and functionality form the core of Hoiles’ practice. “Modernist architectural principles are timeless after all, so why not incorporate them into everything I do?” he questions playfully.
Text By Ar. Priti Kalra
Photographs Courtesy Darren Bradley