A Cliff Dweller in Sausalito

People / Places / April 3, 2012

First, consider the site:

It was a geologically unstable, two-story cliffside in Sausalito that required mountain-climbing gear for an inspection by architect Michael Rex and his structural engineer, chosen for his conservative nature.  He nearly lost the engineer when a rope snapped.

Luckily, he did not.  And the engineer eventually came up with an ingenious solution for placing a residence on top of the cliff with a tendency toward rockslides.

“It required easements for drilling horizontally under other people’s houses,” Rex says.  “He designed a concrete grid of beams four feet apart, horizontally and vertically.”

The concrete was poured in place.  Where horizontal and vertical beams crossed, a steel rod was drilled in at an angle.  Engineers pulled on them in a test of stability, then bolted them and epoxied them in place.

In essence it’s a grid laid out and sewn into the hill.  Every eight feet, there’s a vertical pier to carry the load.  The biggest challenge lay in bringing rigs in to drill horizontally into the cliff.

“It was very adventurous, and very expensive,” the architect says of his $1 million foundation.

But then there’s the view.

His client now enjoys an extraordinarily sweeping, 180-degree vista of San Francisco, the Bay Bridge and Sausalito itself from each of the home’s three levels.

The residence is layered because of the topography, with living areas on the first level, guest space and balcony on the second, and master bed and bath, along with kitchen, on top.  NanaWalls throughout open out to the environment, even in the master bath, which opens to a terrace, since there are no neighbors within view.

To avoid a sterile feel, the architect softened its modern steel and glass materials with wood for floors and ceilings, and a stone wall that extends from inside to out.

“It’s all instantly quiet and peaceful,” he says.  “There are quiet spaces and comfortable spaces.  There’s a sense of indoor and outdoor flowing together.”

It’s a house with a view that’s worth the price of its foundation.

For more on Michael Rex, go to http://www.rexassoc.com

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Michael Welton




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