The Diane Middlebrook Memorial Writers’ Residence, at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in rural Woodside, California, consists of four sleep/work cabins designed with sustainable features, including a freestanding, pre-engineered steel roof assembly that carries solar panels. Beginning occupancy in spring 2012, the new structures are designed for month-long residencies by writers, poets, composers and playwrights. They will increase the program's capacity by 50 percent.
The studios, arrayed under the steel canopy, are sited to maximize the spectacular setting in the rural Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean. These are the first structures to have been purpose-built for the artist program. All are aimed at the southern and western views but skewed a few degrees from each other, giving the arrangement a looseness that contrasts with the linear rigidity of the roof. Clad in unfinished, red cedar boards that will age over time, the cabins feature large, sliding glass doors and private outdoor spaces. The northeast-facing sides contain clerestory windows angled towards the surrounding ridge lines and trees. Rectangular holes in the steel canopy create patterns of sun and shadows and align with skylights in the cabins, giving each unit a window to the sky.
The cabins were designed to foster the creative process but also create a micro-community for the writers within the ranch. With visual and acoustical privacy, each has its own epic view and stand in close proximity under a unifying roof.
The 280-sf cabins, each of which includes a bathroom, are compact to minimize the impact on the land. The main area for working receives warm southern sun, an antidote to the area's cool climate and frequent fog; sleeping nooks are behind, away from the strong light. The architect partially donated their design services, and supplied the carpet and porcelain bath tiles from samples collected in their office over the years. Materials range in color, pattern and texture and were composed in the field to create a different scheme for each unit.
The architect adhered to the Build It Green program's established GreenPoint Rating system, which is the standard for San Mateo County. While a minimum of 50 points is required for new construction in the county, the new cabins received a rating of 87 points.
Now in its 32nd year, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program (http://www.djerassi.org/) has provided more than 2,000 artist residencies and currently serves approximately 90 artists each year–all free of charge. It is the largest artist residency program in the West and is considered among the best in the country. Stanford University Professor Emeritus Dr. Carl Djerassi and his wife Diane Middlebrook, the writer and Professor Emerita of English at Stanford, founded the Djerassi Program in 1979. The new writers’ residence is a permanent memorial to Middlebrook, who passed away in 2007.