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Hillside Residence

Alterstudio Architecture, LLp.

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  • Kevin Alter, Ernesto Cragnolino, AIA, Tim Whitehill

Project Status



304 sq. feet


Watermark Awards

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Project Description

The Hillside Residence is a substantial renovation and expansion of a 1927 bungalow.

The existing, 1000 sf building was rescued from dilapidation and delineated abstractly in

stark white, and paired with a new, 1100 sf sculptural volume clad black-stained cypress,

connected via a glass entry bridge. Akin to Marcel Breuer’s 1943 proposition for a Bi-
Nuclear House, the home is split into two zones; one for living and socializing, and the

other for concentration, work and sleeping – and by virtue of entering in the middle,

both sides appear to be in dialogue with each other. Inside, the two zones are defined in

distinctly different material and spatial characters; the combination being both gracious

and provocative.

The renovation respects the existing building's disposition and maintains its collection

of discrete rooms, while radically altering their character through an adjustment to its

organization. A series of private rooms now take the place of what was public, and the

front porch is removed, leaving the existing bungalow’s massing in tact but intriguingly

unfamiliar as it appears w/out any obvious way to enter from the street. This private

nucleus is accessed through a new corridor that leads to an unexpectedly tall central

space, off of which are arrayed the private rooms of the house. Unlike the traditional

organization of the home, the expansion opens the public spaces to the backyard and, by

contrast, is characterized by openness, dynamic spatial continuity, and abstraction.

The kitchen is at the center of the new public nucleus, immediately setting a casual and

multivalent tone to this great room. A Carrara marble countertop is turned down to

cover the island’s bulkhead and give a sense of specialness to the ensemble. Long-Leaf

pine, reclaimed from the floor joists of the original bungalow, was used for the adjacent

dining table, back counter and island’s recessed panel; the patina of age and previous use

posed against the unadulterated marble. Continuing a theme of combining designed and

found artifacts, the family dining table is furnished with a collection of chairs that oddly

match – family heirlooms, the seat and back painted to match the adjacent Eames molded

fiberglass chairs. A single sliding panel alternately reveals or conceals the pantry and

open storage while carefully orchestrated windows and skylights further open the house

to the sky and sun, and provide a continued sense of expansiveness to this modest home.

An ultimately modern sensibility in the addition provides a counterpoint to the sense

of contained space in the original house, and the combination of existing and designed

artifacts is present throughout the ensemble. As one passes between the old and new

construction, the confluence of two distinct architectural characters gives rise to questions

about the various ways in which architecture both challenges and reinforces the culture

of which it is a part. The ensemble is also a counter-proposal to the immodesties of

urban transformation – where a new character replaces a ‘historically underutilized’

building stock. Here, the existing disposition of the street is maintained, albeit with a

new temperament.
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