Artist Studio and Workshop in Sonoma County

The catalyst and driving design factor for the project was creating a second life for an old, derelict barn on the rural property located in Sebastopol, about an hour north of San Francisco, but turned into a new building after the existing structure was deemed unsalvageable.

Using the barn typology had an instant appeal. The main challenge became to create an ideal art studio within the barn vernacular. Inverting the traditional gable barn roof created sweeping double height spaces for art production and storage, while providing natural ventilation, indirect northern light conditions, and views out toward the property. The new barn has the same footprint as the existing one and was built for just over $140 per square foot. The new building consists of 2,500 square feet and is wood framed with steel moment frames. They allow for the large utilitarian openings and spans required to maneuver tractors and art work in and out of the building, while providing optimal lighting conditions for the artist.

The Norwegian owners have a love for wood as a construction material. 100-yearold reclaimed barn siding was used as the exterior cladding material, reflecting the agrarian character of the previous building, while budgetary and functional constraints led to plywood being chosen as the interior cladding material. Framing material and siding from the existing barn was used for cabinetry. The roof was constructed with rusted steel reminiscent of the previous barn structure’s roofing and siding.

The main structure is a 2500 sf artist’s studio, office, and storage building that is clad in barn wood though inverts the pitched-roof form of the original. The inverted pitch roof creates sweeping double height spaces for art production and storage, while providing natural ventilation, natural light, and views out toward the property.

A 720 sf concrete kitchen and dining space grows out from the studio. Nicknamed the “Amoeba,” it reaches toward the landscape and literally captures it to create a lush interior garden that softly separates the kitchen from the dining area. The roof is an exposed wood, scissor-beam roof construction with a large, diffuse skylight that brings light into the center of the building for people and plants. Though its form and material may seem foreign, it follows a similar pitched form as its host and is board-formed using the same barn wood as formwork. When the concrete had dried
the boards were removed and reused as a fence elsewhere on the property, further continuing a many decades-old material lineage.

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Sustainability through reuse
For this project the architects used adaptive re-use strategies for much of the building materials, minimized unnecessary glazing where possible, used thermally broken window frames, formaldehyde-free insulation, sustainably FSC certified milled wood, and minimized new materials to reduce waste. A radiant floor heating system was installed for optimal heating. The builder also incorporated portions of some of the demolished foundation for landscape elements.

The project for this artist studio and workshop in Sonoma, Northern California, represents yet another opus in Mork-Ulnes Architects coherent portfolio of works: all designs that testify the office’s strong bicultural inspirations: the Norwegian straightforward, pragmatic, functional side and the Californian openness to invention.

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