A college president of Japanese descent and a businessman were joyously married in the garden of their Sonoma County home. On the same night they celebrated their first anniversary there, they narrowly escaped with their lives when one of the devastating California fires of 2017 engulfed their neighborhood so rapidly that they fled barefoot in their nightclothes.

This is architecture as a monument to memories and rebirth. The entrance and ground floor represent the clients’ history. Rammed earth walls that lead to the front entrance are embedded with pieces of lost pottery, honoring her family. The lower floor of the house, which includes a gym and guest room, is wrapped in charred shou sugi ban wood.

The design program fulfills her professional need to host large events in the back yard. On the upper floor a great room opens to a large concrete deck and a Japanese-inspired garden with gravel, rocks and California native plants.

From the entrance a double-height ceremonial stair leads visitors up to the back garden to access the public spaces without drawing them into private areas.

The private zone of the upper floor includes a modern tatami room, which can double as a guest room, his study and the master bedroom suite. Symbolizing renewal and hope for the future, this level of the house is wrapped in weathered cedar, untouched by fire.

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  • Hanover
  • Santa Rosa, CA
  • 2019
  • Unbuilt