Eager to break the mould of typically Californian beachfront homes with dark, huddled back rooms, Los Angeles-based architects Johnston Marklee came up with a radically different solution for this private residence: Vault House.
The resulting Vault House is a smooth, pure-white rectangular block, cut through with arches, vaults and curving skylights that open up oblique and overlapping views.
Though the building looks like monolithic cast concrete, it’s actually synthetic stucco over a wood-frame construction. Wood was chosen over cast concrete because of cost, weight and seismic considerations.
The ocean is visible from every room in the house, however far back, but the grand panorama of sand, waves and surfers practically inhabits the living room.
The broad vaults, from which this house gets its name, shape the character of every room in this house. Even the ceilings are slightly curved.
The inclusion of the central courtyard was a key architectural strategy. This sheltered patio, doubling as an entry court, opens the way for layered transparency and allows sunlight to penetrate deep inside.
A simple and stylish interior uses the house’s abundance of natural light to maximum effect. A sense of layered transparency is felt throughout the house, transcending the boundaries of space often set by multiple floors.
Special permits allowed the owners of Vault House to build six metres closer to the surf than any of their neighbours. With its vaulted underbelly, the house appears to perch lightly on the sand. But it’s a lightness secured by massive underground pylons, designed to withstand high waves, wind and erosion.