burks toma architects, berkeley, calif.

Because one of the clients for this California project uses a wheelchair, the architects designed it with accessibility in mind. But they were careful not to make it feel institutional, an achievement the judges admired. "The accessible design doesn't overtake the aesthetic," said one judge. It is simply a beautiful house, said another.

The house--a collaboration between Burks Toma Architects and Min/Day--sits on a hill overlooking San Jose's undulating landscape. Its shape, a long bar with three volumes all on one level, takes advantage of the site and answers the clients' need for light and undemanding circulation. The volumes also create courtyards, protected from the winds and the strong Western sun. "We kept the house open and easy for the client to move around," says Jeff L. Day. Instead of walls, they used cabinetry on legs to delineate space while permitting the flow of natural light. In the kitchen, a stainless steel countertop with no base cabinets accommodates a wheelchair and allows ceiling-to-floor windows.

Although an accessible project, the house has only one ramp on the property, used for access to the backyard, Day says. It's not conspicuous, however, thanks to careful grading and landscaping. According to one judge, "The ramp is a really nice way to engage the landscape."

principal in charge: Marc Toma, Burks Toma Architects, Berkeley, Calif., in collaboration with Min/Day, San Francisco
project architect: Lisa Trujillo, Burks Toma Architects
general contractor: Tim McDonald, Praxis, St. Helena, Calif.
landscape architect: Eric & Silvina Blasen, Blasen Landscape Architecture, Sausolito, Calif.
interior designer: Marie Fisher, Marie Fisher Interior Design, San Francisco
project size: 4,000 square feet
site size: 5.0 acres
construction cost: $250 per square foot
photographer: Cesar Rubio