The Lichen House nestles within the fog and oaks in the hills above California’s Sonoma Valley. The free-ranging branches of the site’s mature oak trees support lacy veils of lichen that filter sunlight, capture moisture and nutrients for their hosts, and remove pollutants from the air through photosynthesis.

Taking inspiration from the way lichen freely seeks out its most sustainable micro-climates, we pulled the ends of the home toward long views and dialed in each room to its own ‘microclimate’ of views, solar orientation, quality of light, air flow and privacy.

Integral to the concept and design of the Lichen House is a porous and breathable building envelope accepting, filtering, and processing external conditions like the lichen that inspires the design. A south-facing unconditioned hallway along the private wing serves as a thermal buffer. This zone protects the sleeping quarters from direct southern exposure, dampening heat loss and heat gain while promoting natural airflow –effectively minimizing the heating and cooling loads of the house.

We placed a small work studio and guest house down the hill from the main house –a private retreat overlooking the views of the valley below.

A concept and schematic design analysis for the new home.
An early version of the 'lichen trellis' was more rustic and far less refined.
To understand the micro-climates in which lichens –and wine grapes– thrive, we first studied the weather patterns of the Bay Area, zooming in to the local coastal region and further to the defining characteristics of the Sonoma wine appellations.
We continued the analysis to the local Oak habitats, groves, and finally to the individual lichen-filled trees.
Diving in further, we studied the structure and functioning of lichen all the way down the to the fungal / algal symbiosis at the heart of it all.
Understanding deeply where and how lichen thrives on the site then inspired a building equally in tune with its environment.
A concept and schematic design analysis for the new home.