Glass, steel and ceramic tiles in Northern California
Robert Jordan, Rob J Photos
Cord Struckmann Architect
The renovation project for one of California’s Case Study Houses, #26 in San Rafael, carried out by San Francisco-based practice Cord Struckmann Architect, has won the Residential Honorable Mention in the Ceramics of Italy Tile Competition 2017. This renovation of a modernist residential building of great historical value, built in 1963 by Beverly D. Thorne, included replacing the floor coverings in many of the living spaces – previously consisting of carpet and vinyl – with meticulously selected materials that respect the integrity of the original project. Cord Struckmann, who is also the owner of the house and studied History of Art and Restoration in Italy before gaining more than twenty years of international experience as an architect, chose Gigacer Concrete porcelain panels for their surface texture, quality and large size.
Case Study House #26 is the only one located in Northern California and was designed in the 1960s as a prototype single-family home to be built on a steep slope through creative use of steel. Due to the good fortune of having had just one owner, it remained unchanged for more than fifty years until 2015 when Cord Struckmann purchased it as his main residence. « Despite being more than half a century old, CSH#26 has a very modern, minimalist and contemporary look, » he said. « The structure is very simple: it consists of a base and a roof, connected and held together by steel elements and enclosed in glass walls. Set closely against the hillside and facing onto the vast Californian landscape, it offers a high level of privacy as well as being immersed in greenery and located just a 30-minute drive from my San Francisco studio. » It is part of the series of Case Study Houses promoted after the Second World War by the magazine Arts & Architecture, one of California’s most important contributions to the history of American architecture that led to the construction of some of the finest examples of modernist architecture in the second half of the twentieth century. The project, which involved the participation of architects of the calibre of Richard Neutra, Raphael Soriano, Craig Ellwood, Charles and Ray Eames, Pierre Koenig, Eero Saarinen, A. Quincy Jones and Ralph Rapson, was launched with the aim of designing an efficient model of housing in response to the US building boom following the Second World War and the homecoming of millions of soldiers. The idea was to create a blueprint for modern residences that could be used for mass production, and although none of the prototype houses were actually used for this purpose (as instead was the case with the Eichlers houses), the projects exerted a strong influence on the architects and designers of the time. Today, the longitudinal plan of the house is divided equally between the daytime and nighttime areas, both facing onto the long terrace overlooking the surrounding landscape and illuminated by natural light filtering in through the full-height glazing of the façade. While adapting the house to modern standards, Struckmann limited his intervention to a minimum so as to avoid altering the spirit of the place, and instead concentrated on giving a facelift to the interiors, surface coverings and services. Even in the kitchen he succeeded in restoring the 1960s steel cupboards while opting for major design classics to give a light touch to the interior furnishings.
Well aware of the historical importance of the space as the epitome of the mid-twentieth century architectural project, the current owners offer architecture lovers the chance to visit the house and even organise private events designed to make the most of this unique location. For further details, visit the dedicated website www.csh26.info which provides a wealth of information and construction details.
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤ 0,1%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): ≤ 145 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): 40 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R10
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant