Home as Compound : Shahidi Residence

Westwood, California 11/01/09
Front Facade

Dr. and Mrs. Shahidi’s residence was completed in early 2009 but we never got a chance to photograph it until recently.  The 3,400 sf Los Altos residence belongs to Ramin Shahidi, a Stanford University Professor of biomedics.  Ramin came to atelier V nearly 3 years ago requesting a contemporary “Compound” for his newly purchased lot in Los Altos which had an old house, a barn and a garage on it.  We found the idea of the Compound or village as a home very interesting as it reminded us of the way homes were designed back in the Middle East in the old days.  This idea treats a residence not as a singular all inclusive element but as a complex of functional actors around a central space/courtyard.  Fortunately, the stage was already set for this Parti to take shape.  There was an existing barn (we won’t tell you the story about the hundreds of silver dollar coin treasure chest that Ramin found hidden beneath the barn while surveying the house with his metal detector) and a detached garage which we could not remove because removing them meant that the existing zoning laws would not allow us to recapture the lost footage and maintain existing setbacks.  While keeping the barn and the garage structure intact and remodeling them, the main bungalow was demolished and in its place was designed a single two story mass with a single level in-law quarters attached to it via a glass enclosed hallway.   A pergola/arcade would connect the main house, the in-laws quarters, the barn and the garage together completing the village/compound scheme.  The other determining factor of the geometry was the huge 70 year old existing Carob tree (this species of tree smells bad and it makes a mess, but due to its age, it was very special to Shahidi’s) which we planned for to be in the middle of the courtyard.  Bear in mind that the pragmatic idea of the compound with a protected courtyard was due to Shahidis’ requirement to have a safe environment for their two children to play in while they could be watched from practically anywhere in the house (who can blame them for that?).  The result has been what we feel is a modern home with a lot of warmth and charm.  We cannot wait for all the bougainvillias to grow over the pergolas.

The project design went through a series of iterations with the City of Los Altos Planning commission and neighbourhood committees which took the better part of a year before it was finally approved with much accolade from the City Council members.  In fact one of the members of the City council referred to the concept as one that needs to serve as an example for any future single family development in the area.  Shahidi’s finally completed the home in early 2009 after going through two sets of contractors and much delay due to the contractor’s shortcoming.

The project cost came under budget.  The 3,400 sf  house plus the garage and the barn were completed for under a million dollars or about $225/SF.  Shahidi’s are still in the process of furnishing the house and finalizing the landscaping.  Our snapshots don’t do the project  justice.  We promise to go back and do a serious shoot when all the knickknacks are in place.

To see the Shahidi Residence photos and drawings and other atelier V projects please go to:  www.atelierv.com  Projects/Residential/Shahidi Residence

Credits: Joseph Alvarez, AIA , Project Architect, Vanessa Ablegas, Project Captain,  Lilian Ore, Project Assistant.



Interior Skylight

Interior Stair