The Void House of the Spiegel Aihara Workshop brings a historic Silicon Valley into the present


Rather than demolishing this mid-century Silicon Valley home to make way for an oversized mansion (standard practice in the area), San Francisco-based Spiegel Aihara Workshop (SAW) opted for a lighter approach to that now aptly named Void House to bring the 21st century home.

“We decided we’d try to move away from what was already there,” said Dan Spiegel, who co-founded and operates SAW with Megumi Aihara, of the Atherton, California apartment.

The roof and attic of the house were prominently featured in the original design, but they were underutilized and the architects saw potential there.

“We looked for opportunities, some based on the locations of existing skylights, others based on unusual program neighborhoods we could find, and cut away in the attic,” Spiegel said.

New Velux skylights and large operable windows and walls from All Weather flood the interiors with daylight and enable passive ventilation in the mild local climate. The result is reminiscent of the gently glowing ranch-style work of California architect Cliff May – his famous Sunset Magazine headquarters is not far away in Menlo Park, and Spiegel grew up in a modified May house nearby – but with a certain twist. The architects cut through the clean, straight geometries typical of the ranch style and used sculptural light sources that meander around the existing structure of the house and reach deep into the interior. In this otherwise horizontal house, these elegant vertical elements create unexpected spatial connections.

“The challenge of making these openings work within the existing structure resulted in some really interesting formal solutions that we would not otherwise have thought of,” said Spiegel.

The formal solutions also had a programmatic impact: a window in the main cupboard looks into a void that is connected to a hallway through the entrance door, for example. The new spatial connections and light channels feel grounded in the past and offer a better future.

Architect and landscape architect: Spiegel Aihara Workshop (SAW)
Place: Atherton, California

Wooden floors and ceiling coverings: Wood
Colour: Benjamin Moore
Exterior doors and windows: All weather
Skylights: Velux
Batt insulation: Owens Corning
Metal roof: RMS supply
Kitchen handles and primary bathroom decor: Rocky Mountain Hardware
domestic appliances: Thermador, Viking, Miele, Samsung
Fittings: Waterworks, Kohler, Blanco, Newport Brass, Toto, Rejuvenation, Americh
Tile: Ann Sacks, Daltile, The Builder Depot, Akdo, Ceramic Tile Design, Cement Tile Store