Mork-Ulnes Architects’ latest project, Sonoma House, CA

This fireproof Sonoma home is located in the California landscape

California wildfires inspired Frame House by Mork-Ulnes Architects as a contemporary fireproof home
It had only been a few months since Mork-Ulnes Architects completed construction of three guesthouses for a private client in Northern California, when a horrific wildfire broke out in the area, destroying the property’s main home – yet miraculously leaving the guesthouses behind. Soon after, the owner contacted studio founder Casper Mork-Ulnes and his team to commission a new main house for the property, and the Frame House was born. This is a Sonoma home built specifically to withstand similar future disasters, while at the same time searching every inch for a stylish and modern family home.

The project is located on a poet’s perch in the Sonoma Hills, used as a San Francisco family retreat. Clients use the space for vacations and get away with friends and extended family on long weekends. While the owners were fortunate and no one was harmed during past bushfires, they were very concerned about future accidents, and put fire resistance high on their priority list. Mork-Ulnes has been committed to working with a selection of fire retardant building materials from the start.

The house is constructed around a two-storey concrete structure based on a three-dimensional grid, placed over a landscape of Manzanita orchards, pine-tree hillsides and the property’s pool area. “After a nuns fire in 2017 devastated the surrounding area and damaged property, clients asked us to design a new home that would be armored against future wildfires,” the architect says. The concept was to design an all-concrete house wrapped in a layer of sacrificial wood that gave a nod to the local farmhouse structures in the area — so that its material still seemed to match a Northern California home, despite it being structurally concrete.

Modernist influences of the West Coast’s mid-century legacy, the importance of light and air, as well as its own Scandinavian heritage played a role in the final design of Mork-Ulness, providing a residential property that feels generous, luminous, and finely tuned. Interiors and lighting were configured by Charles de Lisle’s office to harmoniously fit into the overall architectural approach of this Sonoma home.

‘A deep loggia and a repeating grid of columns create the structure of the house. A loggia creates a respite from the hot Sonoma sun and a rhythmic pattern that provides order and frame for the house. The grid structure defines the functions of the house and whether it is introverted or open to the site, depending on whether it is filled with a glazing void or Solid wall, says Mork Ullness.Functional and aesthetically consistent, the home is a 21st century sanctuary that responds to its location and conditions.§

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