Geoffrey von Oeyen

Case Room and Horizon House

March 2020

For Geoffrey von Oeyen Design, the Future of Space is examined through new modes of working from home. Two private residences in Malibu were transformed through significant architectural additions and renovations to support the work of internationally recognized professionals, leveraging geometric relationships and site conditions to create visual overlays for the spatial registration of place. These homes serve as optical devices specifically adapted to represent familiar contexts in unanticipated ways, and are designed to transform familiar residential typologies to solve issues of daylight, space, and view as sources of recurring visual discovery. Perspectival alignments, geometric sequences, visual coincidences, shadow projections, daylight diffusion, and other visual and material phenomena can be understood through an accretion of experiences in an around these projects over time, thus revealing prescient spatial capacities latent in each design. In a future where more time at home creates more time to observe and appreciate the visual and temporal qualities of one's environment, spaces that anticipate these phenomena become all the more valuable.

Case Room and Horizon House

March 2021

A year ago the first stay-at-home orders were issued, making the home a place of new importance, a machine for both living and now working. At the beginning of the pandemic, we examined the two private residences submitted to the first Future of Space exhibition as places designed to support the work of the residents, all internationally recognized professionals and as optical devices for viewing the surrounding environment. A year later, our conception of “home” has changed as our homes have become our primary spaces for everything, not just living. Through the observation of how the Horizon House and Case Room have functioned in the past year, we have come to some further ideas on the Future of Space.

Through the past year of observing Horizon House and Case Room, the global pandemic has unexpectedly amplified certain aspects of the designs. These two homes, which were recently featured in The California Style: Architecture on the Edge in Paradise, edited by Francesc Zamora Mola, were intended to function as both living and working spaces and were well-designed to accommodate the shift to work-from-home. Yet, the increased importance of the outdoor spaces, originally designed to augment the interiors, was less apparent initially. After further research, however, it seems natural that such spaces have gained importance during the past year as places to safely host gatherings, either for the purpose of work or leisure. Indoor-outdoor living, a key tenant of modern architecture, particularly modern architecture in California, was used as a prevention or treatment for diseases such as tuberculosis and influenza. Thus, while these projects were originally chosen for this exhibit for their capacity to double as work spaces, it is their ability to open up to the outdoors, providing the physical and psychological relief that nature has afforded during the pandemic, that has become paramount.

Case Room
Malibu, California

The clients—two attorneys—commissioned an addition of 650 sf to their residence for use as a satellite home office. As Jenna McKnight aptly noted in her story about the Case Room for Dezeen, written prior to the pandemic, the home office has taken on increasing importance in the 21st century as more professionals seek opportunities to work both independently, and with staff, from home. Post-pandemic, the concept of work-from-home has taken on new dimensions, and it is ironic that this project was to be featured on an AIA national convention tour as a prototypical work from home space-- before the convention and tour were canceled and as the owners work from home in the Case Room. The project's double-height space allows partners and their staff to work either together or remotely. A fireside area serves private client meetings, and ample shelving offers storage for legal documents and office equipment. An elevator provides easy accommodation for clients as well as circulation between the library, powder room, and master bedroom on the lower level, and the media room on the upper level; a new hallway with skylights separates the Case Room from the master bedroom and bathroom, and brings in daylight and access to the exterior. For daytime and evening events, a landscaped exterior patio with built-in benches, a fireplace, fountain, and outdoor kitchen were added.

Case Room, designed as a work-from-home space, can also be reconsidered by how it negotiates indoor and outdoor experiences, with large windows and skylights creating a strong visual connection between the interior and its natural context, and large french doors offering additional natural ventilation to the work space and a physical connection to nature. Immediately adjoining the office space is a landscaped exterior patio designed with built-in benches, a fireplace, fountain, and outdoor kitchen, which can be used as an important space to socialize safely with friends and family. Living in isolation -- as Californians were asked to stay home for the majority of the past year -- has highlighted the importance of social connection in physical proximity. Thus these areas for hosting safe gatherings have become all the more important.

Horizon House
Malibu, California

For two classical musicians with international touring careers, the need for solitude and a connection to nature has taken on new dimensions post-pandemic. Historically, the home has been a venue of classical music concerts. With a global shift away from the interior concert hall experience in an era of social distancing, this home, designed to accommodate indoor-outdoor home concerts, may now serve as their primary performance venue. Architecturally, the Horizon House was designed to be a geometrically precise transformation of a generic 1960s ranch house into an optical device for framing panoramic views of the Pacific horizon in western Malibu, California. Following Robin Evans's concept of Mies van der Rohe’s paradoxical symmetries in the Barcelona Pavilion, the horizon is mirrored by horizontal framing devices. The existing house was comprised of two wings on a hillside site overlooking the ocean: a bedroom wing facing approximately southeast, and a garage wing almost due southwest. Unfortunately, the central node of the house, where the two wings met in closest proximity to the ocean, lacked unobstructed ocean views, social space for large gatherings and concerts, and limited outdoor amenities. The clients wanted the design to reconcile the two wings, negotiating two axes of a grid with a third axis, and thereby uniting the two halves of the house to reframe the horizon.

Photos by @gvodesign

As a house in the final stages of construction for the second time, being rebuilt after the original was burned in the Woolsey fire, the Horizon House construction site has led a double life for the past year. As a semi-enclosed space with a finished roof, it can perform as a pavilion that is already beginning to function as an optical device for framing views of the Pacific Ocean in Malibu. Outdoor spaces have become increasingly important during the past year -- for hosting socially distant gatherings, for a change of view, and as spaces with optimal ventilation. Horizon House has been able to function as such a space on the weekends. Actor Rachel Tabb visited to stage a series of tableaux exploring the developing space as her theater in collaboration with photographer and creative partner Eric Ray Davidson. A picnic for the clients and the design team was held in what will be the living room. A music video in support of a Bach and Beethoven recording featuring the owner performing on a grand piano and filmed as the sun set over the horizon. Even after the completion of the building, through the use of multi-slide doors, operable clerestory windows, and operable skylights (intended to provide connectivity to the outdoors and passive ventilation), the more public areas of the home can be opened up to have nearly the same functionality as the unfinished and exposed space does now.

Horizon House 3: Video by Karl Tso
The design reconciles the massing of the existing wings and negotiates the two axes of a grid with a third axis -- uniting the two halves of the house to reframe the horizon above an infinity pool. Operable skylights and awnings modulate daylight and passive ventilation and animate the roofscape as an archipelago of extrusions against the horizon. The chamfered southern clear-span addition allows for the pool to be oriented for ocean and daylight exposure. Cantilevered aluminum frames, supporting operable fabric canopies, create visual and physical extensions outward.