Tiburon, California is located just a short ferry ride away from San Francisco, but it feels worlds away from anything resembling city life. That sense of seclusion is particularly acute in Italian architect Andrea Ponsi's sprawling House on the Bay, which was recently opened to the public as part of AIA San Francisco and the Center for Architecture + Design's annual Marin Living: Home Tours event. The modern, solar-powered home is organized as four distinct pavilions, with a central courtyard and jaw-dropping modern art gallery functioning as the focal point.
This year’s slate of homes that were chosen for the Marin: Living Home Tours was impressive, but Andrea Ponsi‘s House on the Bay managed to stand out from the pack. The house is located on a gentle slope that leads down to the shore. A long walkway that is covered with a large glass solar canopy greets visitors, and terraces that flank the sides of the home are also covered with similar solar canopies. About 100 square meters of solar photovoltaic panels have been installed on the roof, providing all of the home’s electricity needs.
Inside, the first of the four pavilions looks and feels like a modern art gallery, with impressive paintings hung on large white walls. The room opens up to a central courtyard with small trees and a channel of water running through it that is enclosed by large walls of glass. Aside from its aesthetic beauty, the courtyard allows natural ventilation and daylight to enter the art exhibition space. The courtyard, like the side yards and the decking that leads out to the beach, all feel like extensions of the interior space, as rooms naturally flow into the outdoors.
From the gallery, visitors can head in one of four directions — towards the owners’ private rooms, to the south garden, to the living and dining area, or to the front entrance. But it’s the outdoor spaces (in mid-May, at least) that hold the most allure. The south garden is wilder than some of the other more manicured gardens – it features fruit trees and long wooden pieces of decking that run parallel with inset herb and flower gardens.
Continuing east from the south garden is a small passageway that runs between the east side of the house and a dense stand of bamboo where the owners have installed a minimal outdoor shower. The shower area leads out to a sprawling series of terraced decks that gradually make their way down to the beach. On the exterior of the home, the designers used slats of ipe ventilated curtain wall that helps to naturally cool the house, and sun blinds are also used throughout the house.