With its jaw-dropping views of the ocean and unique design, it’s easy to see why people fall in love with the Fall House. Perched on the edge of a bluff, this cliff house plunges down towards the ocean, allowing the home to work with the landscape rather than against it.
The home is a feat of engineering and takes visitors on a journey as they traverse the home’s floors, descending towards the ocean below.
The Big Sur Falling House by Fougeron Architecture
From a distance, the Fall House looks like it could be one of those California houses falling into the ocean. But its plunging design was purposeful and masterfully executed.
The home sits on a 1.5-acre triangular lot on a bluff overlooking a 250-foot drop into the ocean.
Architect Anne Fougeron envisioned a glass and copper-clad home that hugged the cliff. The home meanders down the slope, with its slanting roof mimicking the curve of the Pacific banana slug.
The Living Space
The highest-volume area of the 3,800-square-foot home sits at the driveway. Step inside, and you’re greeted by an open living and kitchen area. The south-facing wall features mahogany on the walls and limestone flooring.
The northern part of the home really brings the outdoors in, with a façade that’s nearly all glass. Large glass panels are set in a custom steel-framing system to allow for near panoramic views of the Pacific. These glass panels can withstand winds of up to 80 miles an hour. In addition, its northern position allows an abundance of natural light to enter the home while protecting against radiant heat from the southern end of the home.
The home’s positioning also protects southern outdoor spaces from the wind.
The south side of the living room opens up to a sunken terrace protected by a retaining wall and a natural berm.
Views of the outdoors are maintained from east to west, from the living area to the bedroom, thanks to fenestration near the ceiling.
The kitchen and living areas are connected via a nearly all-glass library, which separates gathering spaces from the home’s private quarters.
The double-cantilevered master bedroom offers stunning views of the ocean from the windowed corner opposite the bed.
The home also features a single-story concrete wing that’s perpendicular to the home and below ground. This area includes bedrooms on the ground floor, building services and a green roof. It serves as the boulder locking the home to the earth.
A Feat of Engineering
The Fall House is a feat of engineering. The home, anchored to its site, is designed to withstand erosion and earthquakes while protecting the ecosystem that surrounds it.
An engineer who worked with Fougeron said the project was one of the most complex they had ever worked on. According to the engineer, the home is set back 12 feet from the edge of the bluff. It should be protected for at least 100 years.
Other tactics were also employed to ensure the house stays in place. A concrete-and-pier foundation features pilings that are 10-30 feet deep. The deepest of these pilings sits at the precipice of the cantilever.
Materials and Sustainable Design Tactics
The home features a wide range of materials, including:
- Copper roof
- Steel structure
- Standing-seam copper façade
- Wood windows
- Interior wood finishes that were sustainably harvested
- Limestone radiant floors
- Living roof
- Insulated, low-E glazed windows
The Fall House makes extensive use of natural lighting in all rooms, including the bathroom, to reduce the use of artificial lighting. Daylight comes primarily from the north, protecting against the solar radiant heat of south-facing walls. An automatic shading system helps limit southern light.
The home uses a radiant hydronic heat system, which eliminates the need for ductwork, reduces operating temperatures and helps make the home’s interior more comfortable.
Surrounding the home is drought-resistant vegetation that helps reduce soil erosion and provides habitats for wildlife. The vegetated roof also offers additional thermal insulation.
An on-site stream provides fresh water, which eliminates the need for city water connections. A septic system and efficient plumbing fixtures also eliminate the need for city sewer.
To protect the home’s indoor air quality, sustainable and low VOC finishes were chosen. Formaldehyde-free denim was used as ceiling and wall insulation.
The home’s stepped layout also promotes natural ventilation. Cooler, fresh air comes into the home at the lower level, while stale hot air is exhausted from the upper level of the home. At the lowest level of the home is operable glazing that’s automatically controlled and coordinates with an exhaust transfer grille at the top of the home.
The Fall House is a remarkable home that’s designed to be in harmony with its surroundings rather than fighting against nature.