Located on the vegetative gradient between the oak savannah of the Santa Cara Valley and the redwood forests of the of the Santa Cruz mountains, the Uliveto residence seamlessly nestles into its three-acre site. From its conception, the design aimed to blend into its natural surroundings and borrow the vistas of the adjacent mountains. Thus, the architecture developed as a low volume extending towards the distant summits, articulated as a main house along a main axis and a series of pavilions that nestle into the landscape.
Because of its naturally rolling topography, one of the main challenges of the project was tying in the house and accessory buildings site’s natural terrain. By way of a meticulous understanding of the site’s grades and topography, a series of carefully designed stairs, terraces, and walls are integrated to create the necessary canvas for the various requirements of the outdoor program to develop.
The property is screened from the adjacent streets and horse trails by a California native palette of woodland trees and shrubs that give way at the main gate to a modern Mediterranean planting palette, luring the residents and visitors into the front yard. The entry experience is a winding journey through an orchard of ancient olive trees, sourced from former olive fields in Northern California, that are lined by hedges of dwarf olives and rows of lavender. Upon arrival, the entry drive opens into a court of exotic sculptural succulents that skirt the main entry to the house. Planted alleyways flank the entry drive framing views and access points to the backyard.
The upper court of the rear landscape is home to spaces intended for recurring usage – a fire pit and mirror-like infinity pool foreground the terrace vineyard and define the central gathering area of the property. Aligned to transition into the infinity pool edge, a subtle retaining wall negotiates a change in grade while simultaneously demarcating a change in planting character zones. Beyond this linear threshold, an extension of the interior architecture that divides private space from communal space, a perennial meadow with meandering paths unfolds.
The meadow sits atop sculpted topography that exaggerates the pre-existing characteristics of the site while seamlessly blending into the rolling hills of the surrounding area. Within the relief of the resultant terrain, a drainage swale afforded the opportunity to develop a planting scheme that utilizes a wide range of the Mediterranean planting transect – from wet to dry. Evergreen subshrubs and blooming perennials are the core of the planting palette, while other “water-wise” plants with proven structure and habitat-creation infill the remainder of the Mediterranean palette. The planting is arranged in drifts that meander down from the top of the “hills”, where the most xeric plants reside, into the “valley”, where the water runoff promotes a greener, lusher landscape. A winding path with a range of vantage points is woven into the diversely-planted meadow ensuring a unique experience no matter the time of year. A belt of native perennials and evergreen shrubs create a buffer around the site and stitch the surrounding natural landscape together with extensively planted Woodside Residence.
Photo Credit: Marion Brenner
Project location: Woodside, California
Design year: 2015-2018
Year Built: 2018