smyer architecture, solana beach, calif.

Because of a local law, 80 percent of the homes in Del Mar, Calif., are built partially underground. The dilemma that created for Jack B. Smyer II was how to deliver natural light to the basement bathroom of this house. His solution: a two-story skylit shaft that channels the sun's rays to the subterranean room.

"Part of the original design criteria called for a powder room on the next level as well," the architect says. So he located it directly above the lower bath, as another exit on the light shaft's highway. A Plexiglas and rice-paper shoji screen separates the two baths while still permitting a soft light to permeate. "That screen is the powder room jutting into the space below, so bathers can look up and see the sky plus see the powder room."

Said one judge, "The notion of privacy is tweaked and blurred but not compromised."

project architect: Jack B. Smyer II, Smyer Architecture
general contractor: Croft-Wilder Enterprises, Encinitas, Calif.
project size: 8 square feet (for each bathroom)
construction cost: Withheld
photographer: Jeffrey Durkin