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As an artist and an avid gardener, the residents of the Mill Valley Cabins were intent on situating their active retirement pursuits in spaces that would inspire the imagination. The architect responded with a sensible design that met the challenges posed by the slope of the site: two small cabins, 500 square feet and 380 square feet in size, that take the the form of an artist’s studio and a yoga studio and allow the structure to perch lightly between existing pines and redwoods with minimal re-grading.
This wooded site had served as the client’s home for many years, and the cabins provided them with the opportunity to become even more intimate with their natural surroundings. While the studios sit only a stone’s throw away from the site’s main house, they stand independently from the larger structure, offering pockets of seclusion among the trees. They nestle into the steeply sloping site, offering two distinct perspectives of the surrounding forest and creating a quiet space for reflection in a woodland clearing.
The lower building’s planted roof provides a quilt-like garden for the artist to look down upon from his studio and blends into the hillside to create a canvas for the clients’ gardening amusement. The green roof also plays an integral role in the site’s stormwater management solution; along with onsite dissipaters, the roof collects, diverts, and releases storm water back onto the sloped site in a controlled manner to prevent erosion. The low- and no- VOC materials used in the cabins’ construction further reduce the homes’ impact on its sylvan surroundings. The site’s landscape design made only subtle shifts in the site’s vegetative composition, implementing wildfire resistant species and landscaping techniques to ultimately reduce the risk of wildfire.
Mill Valley Cabins’ innovative form and sustainable practices allow the creative couple to exist not only in the forest but as a part of it, as well, building on the concept of biophilia, the theory that an intrinsic bond connects human beings to the living systems around them.