As a teenager, SF architect Matthew Peek witnessed the demolition of an iconic William Wurster-designed bungalow in Stinson Beach. The area’s flood regulations make it easy to tear down an existing house,” says Peek. The loss remains imprinted on his soul. “I thought it was just tragic,” he says.
Decades later, Peek vindicated this misfortune in his design for the Flood-Proof House, part weekend jaunt for real-estate developer and investor Peter Dwares and his family, part prefab prototype for flood zones the world over. Peek, coprincipal of Studio Peek Ancona, configured the contemporary dwelling to withstand the hazards of coastal living (floods, tsunamis, and rising sea levels). The home is also a tribute to the region’s midcentury architectural roots—an intersection between form and function that has garnered best-practice accolades from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and a 2011 Merit Award from the American Institute of Architects.
Supported by 12-foot concrete columns that are anchored into a weighted foundation (the whole shebang is light enough to float in wet sand but is heavy enough to resist the large waves that define FEMA standards), the new build also incorporates an existing 1940s modernist cottage beneath a cantilevered truss that serves as owner Dwares’ preferred perch for ocean-view cocktails.
A lively and drought-tolerant garden, abundant with palms, butterfly bush, aeonium, and dune grasses, brings down the scale of the towering edifice. Meanwhile, clean silhouettes and renewable Western red cedar cladding blur the old and new structures, maintaining what Peek calls “a historic continuum.”
“You can make a new modern-architecture statement, but you can also preserve a site’s history,” says Peek who, this fall, will apply his savvy to an urban-planning mission in tsunami-devastated Japan. “The Flood-Proof house isn’t just a building. It’s a vision for the future.”
This article was published in 7x7's July/August issue. Click here to subscribe.