PAUL MICHAEL DAVIS ARCHITECTS, PLLC

The Fire Lookout House


This is a study of a house in its true context, instead of its idealized context—real nature instead of romantic nature.


The house is a long bar floating over a steep mountain foothill.  A solid, concrete end of the bar containing private and service spaces is buried in the hillside.  At the other end, a cantilevered glass living space dissolves above a hazy valley below.  We brought light into the buried portion of the house with scoops into the roof and hillside.  A detached cube further up the hillside has a garage and a space for visiting kids or guests.


And in answer to the contextual challenge we decided to tackle—the natural and man-made threat of destruction by wildfire—we surrounded our structures with a protective, second skin.  Dark gray ceramic tile, which is naturally fire resistant, is layered over perlite insulation and cement board.  This assembly acts as a sort of fireman's coat around the primary structure.  It also presents an opportunity for a liminal space between the second and primary skins which can serve as a covered deck that could open the house to the outdoors on temperate days, and shade the living spaces from direct sun.  A series of sliding cement board panels can be closed in the event of evacuation during a wildfire, leaving the contents of the house protected.


Our renders show the house in its real context; its true nature.  In one, a wildfire is visible in the distance.  In others, smog and smoke surround the house and obscure the commanding view.  We introduced a palette of blue-green, black and white to stand out from the contextual pinks and tans.






Living/Dining room opening onto a covered deck with sliding fire doors above a hazy valley

Axonometric views

View from below.  Guest house on the left, main house on the right

Entry to house from driveway

Approach to main house entry

Liminal space between main living area and sliding fire doors

Light scoop over den at buried rear portion of main house

Kitchen and entry looking back toward den at buried portion of house

The house with a wildfire in the distance