The Lichen House is nestled among the fog and oaks in the hills above California’s Sonoma Valley. The free-ranging branches of the site’s mature trees support veils of draping Ramalina Lichen that filter sunlight, capture moisture and nutrients for their host oaks, and remove pollutants from the air through photosynthesis. A hypersensitive organism, lichen is a bellwether for the environmental health of this unique microclimate.
The precise symbiotic relationship between species of lichen and their host environment provides inspiration for an architecture specifically tailored to its site– both as a response to it and an expansion of its best attributes.
The lichen’s ability to freely seek out and extend its net towards sustainable conditions also inspires a fluidity of movement and gesture in the architecture. Schwartz and Architecture harness this opportunistic mindset to allow the building form to find its geometric shape.
The home’s ends pull toward long expansive views to the south and west with the freedom to precisely dial in orientation to focal points in the landscape.
Each room is then carefully tuned to its own spatial “microclimate” considering, privacy, views, solar orientation, quality of light, and air flow.
A series of gardens and open spaces work in concert with each zone of the house interior.
The roof’s southern edges are filled with a series of undulating metal fins, which are both a formal reference to the surrounding lichen’s geometry as well as a spatial reference by recreating the filtered dappled light of the lace lichen’s net.
A rounded corner at the edge of the house creates a smooth and welcoming flow to the building as you approach from the path.