Artist Studio & Workshop / Mork-Ulnes Architects

Mork-Ulnes Architects / sfosl re-uses an old, derelict barn on a rural property in Sonoma County, California, to house a 2,500 square feet artist’s studio. And a few months later designs a 720 square feet extension for a verdant dining parlor.

Artist studio & workshop / mork-ulnes architects
© Bruce Damonte

The 2,500 square feet barn, featuring a dramatic inverted butterfly roof, accommodates an artist’s studio and an office; the new addition flows out to the garden where the homeowners planted bamboo, bird-of-paradise plants, aloes, edible taro, a fig tree and some creeping vines. Though easily sealed off from the elements, the pavilion has sliding glass doors that can completely open and take full advantage of Sonoma County’s clement weather.

Artist studio & workshop / mork-ulnes architects
© Bruce Damonte

The Project

Phase 1 – The Barn
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.

Artist studio & workshop / mork-ulnes architects
© Bruce Damonte

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-year old 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.

Artist studio & workshop / mork-ulnes architects
© Bruce Damonte

Phase 2 – The Amoeba
In early 2015, Richardson and Carlsen asked Mork-Ulnes Architects / sfosl to create a new space on the property to entertain visitors, in a seamless connection to the outside.

A 720-square-foot kitchen and dining space now grows out from the studio. Nicknamed the “Amoeba,” it provides a loose and organic counterpoint to the more rigorous barn structure it extends from. It wholeheartedly embraces nature and the outdoors, literally capturing the landscape to create a lush interior garden of taro, fig, and bamboo that softly separates the kitchen from the dining area.

Artist studio & workshop / mork-ulnes architects
© Bruce Damonte

The structure has eight-inch-thick S-curved cement walls whose considerable thermal mass keeps the room cool in the summer and warm on chilly days. The sloped 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 shape and material may seem foreign, its walls were formed by spraying layers of Shotcrete cement onto screens of recycled wood barn siding. When the concrete had dried the boards were removed, thus exposing the familiar wood texture, and reused as a fence elsewhere on the property, further continuing a many decades-old material lineage.

Artist studio & workshop / mork-ulnes architects
© Bruce Damonte

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.

Artist studio & workshop / mork-ulnes architects
© Grant Harder

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.

Project Details:

Location: Sebastopol, California, USA
Site size: 3 acres (1,2 hectares)
Building size: 3,218 sqf (299 sqm)
– phase 1: 2,500 sqf (232 sqm)
– phase 2: 718 sqf (67 sqm)
Architects: Mork-Ulnes Architects / sfosl –
Project Design Team: Greg Ladigin, Casper Mork-Ulnes, Andreas Tingulstad, Nick Damner, Kyle Anderson
Photographs: Bruce Damonte, Grant Harder

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