Site size: 4,150 square feet

Project size: 2,000 square feet

Program: The architect designed a two-story house for himself and his family; an attached studio with a separate entrance serves as his workspace. The building’s location on the tail of a canyon guided its form; the idea was to integrate the canyon and house to create a free-flowing series of spaces, allowing the division between architecture and landscape to disappear. The buildable footprint of the site was limited to that of a previously constructed house. The rest of the site is considered unbuildable due to environmentally sensitive lands and steep hillsides.

Location: North Park, San Diego, CA

Solution: To allow the canyon to be unified with the house, a small courtyard surrounded by three-story high walls was carved out of the center of the buildable area. The livable spaces create a "yin yang" composition around the courtyard, allowing the canyon to be visible from all spaces within the house.The entry is accessed across a floating steel bridge; its sliding cedar door reveals the lush setting beyond, which is further unveiled as one walks through the house. The living space is fully cantilevered, floating out among the trees. The circulation flows both inside and outside; bedrooms are accessed via an outdoor vestibule. An exterior stair at the front of the house leads down to a basement studio, which sinks down to the level of the canyon grade. Braced by concrete retaining walls, it opens freely to the landscape outside.

Construction and materials: The basement is supported by cast-in-place concrete retaining walls. The cantilevered floor diaphragm is a steel structure of beams that brace off the concrete walls; the remaining portions of the house are wood-framed. Where possible, materials were left in their natural states so that they weather and age. The exterior has dark-stained cedar siding and aluminum window systems with wood frames. The flooring on the main level is recinto—a volcanic natural stone found in Mexico. The upper floors feature walnut floors and cabinets. All visible roofs are fully covered with gardens to deepen the connection with the landscape.


Additional Information

Completion date: March 2017

Gross square footage: 2,000 square feet

Total construction cost: $550,000

Client: withheld

Owner: Jeff Svitak



Jeff Svitak Inc.
3037 Redwood Street
San Diego, CA 92104



Structural: Mobayed Consulting Group
Geo-technical: Leighton and Associates


General Contractor:

Owner / Builder



Onnis Luque -



Landscape: Aron Nussbaum Studio





Structural System

Cast-in-place concrete
Steel structural frame for cantilevers
Wood Frame

Exterior Cladding

Metal panels: Hot Rolled Steel panels, left raw

Wood: Cedar siding

Moisture barrier: Tyvek

Other cladding unique to this project: The lap siding detailing was an ode to the craftsman style architectural history of the neighborhood.


Other: Green Roofs - CIM 1000 (90 mil); Drainage Board; Filter Fabric; Landscaping; Bonderized metal copings


Metal frame: Fleetwood
La Cantina



Entrances: Custom "barn door" sliding system

Metal doors: Custom

Wood doors: Custom

Sliding doors: Custom


Locksets: Epitome

Interior Finishes

Demountable partitions:

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Custom - Walnut Veneer

Paints and stains: Timber Pro - UV Deck and Fence "Ebony" Stain

Wall coverings: Stained Cedar Lap Siding; Hot Rolled Steel Raw

Floor and wall tile: Main Level: Recinto Natural Stone; Bedrooms: Solid Walnut; Bathrooms: Porcelain Tile


Fixed seating: Custom

Chairs: Custom


Interior ambient lighting: Illuminate Vintage

Exterior: Shiplights