Photo © Catherine Tighe

Brous Scherer House

James Gauer with Bildsten + Sherwin Design Studio

Santa Barbara, CA
November 2012

James Gauer, with Bildsten + Sherwin Design Studio, creates a small house with an early modernist feel in Santa Barbara, where Spanish Colonial still reigns.

By Laura Raskin

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Situated on a skinny lot at the edge of downtown Santa Barbara, California, architect James Gauer’s 1,500-square-foot Brous-Scherer house is an anomaly in a town known for its code-enforced adherence to the Spanish Colonial style. Gauer’s clients, a couple who moved from New York City (Gauer had designed their Manhattan apartment), wanted to maintain the feeling of their contained, urban life in a California context.

Gauer, who lives in Victoria, British Columbia, worked with the Santa Barbara–based architect of record, Bildsten + Sherwin Design Studio, to devise a two-story woodframe structure covered in crisp-edged stucco. The house is composed of three increasingly smaller, well-proportioned volumes based on a 4-foot grid: The first, a rectilinear bar at the north end of the lot, contains the entry and kitchen; the second, a 16-by-24-foot box, includes the living room and two bedrooms above; and the third and smallest volume provides a loggia that connects the living room to the garden. “I really love the way we managed to squeeze a rather elegant sequence of spaces into a very tight lot,” says Gauer.

After parking in the garage or driveway adjacent to the street, a visitor must walk past the garden, loggia, and living room before reaching the entrance at the far north end of the site; the architect purposefully kept the garden intact with this procession. Gauer invoked Irving Gill’s reduction of the Spanish Colonial vernacular to convince the local review board to approve his design. “They see this kind of harks back to Gill, but they don’t understand that he was mimicking [Adolf] Loos, for whom I’ve always been a complete sucker,” he says. “He stands at that juncture between Classicism and Modernism.”

Design Architect:
James Gauer Architecture + Design
315-68 Songhees Road
Victoria BC V9A 0A3
Principal in charge: Jim Gauer

Architect of Record:
Bildsten + Sherwin Design Studio
Architecture and Landscape Design
1311 Anacapa Street
Santa Barbara CA 93101
Principal in charge: Susan Sherwin

November 2012
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