High on a hillside above Sausalito, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company chose a remote ridge on the boundary between a quaint town an adjacent military land to build a small gas-powered generation plant to serve rural Marin County in 1913. A massive 3-story steel-framed concrete and brick structure with California Mission Styling, the plant served its intended function for many years in quiet isolation.
As the county was developed, the nearby Golden Gate Bridge was completed and Sausalito grew up around the plant; the power demands of the region outgrew the capacity and technology it contained and the land became more valuable for use as residential property. By mid-century, the power generation equipment was stripped out and the plant was sold for conversion to residential use. The commanding volume of the sky-lit interior space and the commanding views of the San Francisco skyline looking southward across the military property were the key elements each new residential owner and design team retained through numerous transitions and remodels.
Most recently, this unique property has received its latest update. While the basic interior layout already displayed a contemporary space-planning vision, the materials and finishes were worn and in need of repair and upgrade. The new owners were careful to select new and replacement elements that further simplified the interior detailing, allowing the original structure to become an even stronger statement of the adaptive value of historic context, volume, exposed structure and mass. The windows and exterior doors were replaced and upgraded, the ground floor uses were expanded from simple entry and garage to include a more elegant entry, wine cellar with tasting lounge opening through the 18” thick brick walls to a developed exterior courtyard and a refined, high ceilinged garage, shop and gym with the original railroad tracks exposed on the floor.
The most significant changes made by this current work have to do with the improvement of the relationship between the building and its unique site. The original structure was isolated from its surroundings by degraded, poorly designed and completely absent transition elements. To anchor the transformation a massive second-level view deck running along the south view elevation squeezed between the building and its property line, was completely rebuilt and finished with hardwood decking that serves as a visual extension of the existing mahogany floors at the interior. The courtyard garden on the opposite (north) side was accessed for the first time through new doors opening from the wine tasting lounge. Existing trees were sculpted, surrounding utility poles and anchorages were simplified and a beautiful garden, deck and hot tub were installed.
Distinctive new horizontal and vertical steel screen elements were added to front and side elevations. Intended to act as contemporary pergolas, these panels contain the expansive exterior spaces while offering shade and privacy and are key to the project’s successful expression of interior-to-exterior connection. They bring the existing raw steel detailing of the exposed interior trusses outside and act as power elements assisting the transition from exterior to interior.