2019 Residential Design Award Recipients, Specialist|

Craig Hartman & SOM

The Blue Oak Cottage and Studio Retreat is set in an oak grove on a 35-acre property in Sonoma County. The previous heavily-grazed cattle ranch caused biodiversity loss and contaminated seasonal creeks. This project strives to restore a diverse ecosystem while adding an 840 square-foot studio retreat for two architects and visiting artists. The project examines the potential for minimalist architectural form to inspire through light, its relationship to the land, and perceptual contrast; intimate perspective and sweeping views.


Cattle removal allowed the restoration of carbon-sequestering, natural, new-growth oaks. The project targets net-zero carbon production through the use of recycled and renewable construction materials along with minimal energy and potable water consumption, overlaid with solar power for domestic activities and automobile use and rain-harvesting. The cottage’s solar battery storage system is connected to the public electric utilities grid, making the project a positive energy supplier when the cottage is unoccupied. Riparian plants and site-harvested rocks in the seasonal creeks eliminate erosion and sediment migration.


The architecture consists of a “Day” and a “Night” Pavilion. The Night Pavilion contains a bedroom and studio (convertible as a bedroom), a bathroom and utility core. The Day Pavilion contains kitchen/living/ studio/library space. Each pavilion is a sloped, open-ended, thick-walled tubular form. They rest upon a concrete plate spanning between two foundation boxes filled with large rocks collected on site, providing winter and summer thermal inertia. A semi-passive system uses a low-velocity, temperature activated fan in the kitchen island to draw air through voids between the rocks, cooling the house mid-morning through early evening. After midnight, the system is again activated to draw cold air through the rocks, cooling them in preparation for the next day’s cooling load. Motor-operated skylights with rain sensors passively exhaust hot air. All systems and lighting are digital, web-enabled.


The tubular pavilions, skinned with fire-resistive metal, are formed by 18” thick heavy timber walls and roofs, carved on all sides for specific views and to explore the poetics of raking light, shadow and reflected color from top-lit baffles.


AIA California
AIA California
AIA California is dedicated to serving its members, and uniting all architecture professionals in the design of a more just, equitable and resilient future through advocacy, education and political action. It celebrates more than 75 years of service and, today, is composed of more than 11,000 members across the state.

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