Client: Djerassi Resident Artists Program
Location: Woodside, CA, United States
Completion date: 2011
Artwork budget: $550,000
Cass Calder Smith
The project consists of four new studios for The Djerassi Resident Artists Program, a place where visiting artists from around the world are provided room and board to concentrate on their work for an extended period of time. The property consists of 582 acres of rolling hills, forests and meadows high in the coastal hills of Woodside, CA. The 280-sf cabins, each of which includes a bathroom, are compact to minimize the impact on the land.
The building itself is actually the "artwork": a cluster of four separate one-room studios, grouped together under a fifth structure, a free-standing steel canopy supporting a solar panel array over the eastern ends and pedestrian pathway connecting the four studios.
The studios, arrayed under the steel canopy, are sited to maximize the spectacular setting in the rural Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean. These are the first structures to have been purpose-built for the artist program. All are aimed at the southern and western views but skewed a few degrees from each other, giving the arrangement a looseness that contrasts with the linear rigidity of the roof. Clad in unfinished, red cedar boards that will age over time, the cabins feature large, sliding glass doors and private outdoor spaces. The northeast-facing sides contain clerestory windows angled towards the surrounding ridge lines and trees. Rectangular holes in the steel canopy create patterns of sun and shadows and align with skylights in the cabins, giving each unit a window to the sky.
The cabins were designed to foster the creative process but also create a micro-community for the writers within the ranch. With visual and acoustical privacy, each has its own epic view and stand in close proximity under a unifying roof. The architect partially donated their design services, and supplied the carpet and porcelain bath tiles from samples collected in their office over the years. Materials range in color, pattern and texture and were composed in the field to create a different scheme for each unit.
Now in its 32nd year, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program (http://www.djerassi.org/) has provided more than 2,000 artist residencies and currently serves approximately 90 artists each year–all free of charge. It is the largest artist residency program in the West and is considered among the best in the country. Stanford University Professor Emeritus Dr. Carl Djerassi and his wife Diane Middlebrook, the writer and Professor Emerita of English at Stanford, founded the Djerassi Program in 1979. The new writers’ residence is a permanent memorial to Middlebrook, who passed away in 2007.