Being cooped up indoors earlier this year wasn’t great for the health of Americans, and for very good reason. We humans are pre-programmed to be at our best, physically and mentally, when regularly exposed to nature. Routine contact with the natural world fills us with renewed energy and vitality, and can even imbue us with a glass-half-full optimism. What could be better than a positive outlook in the face of a once-a-century pandemic?
Among ways architects and builders are responding is by embracing biophilic design. Natural materials, views, lighting and other elements are prioritized in buildings of biophilic design, instilling occupants of these buildings with health-affirming connections to nature.
Buildings that connect with their natural surroundings come in all shapes and sizes. But certain traits tend to be repeated. These buildings often feature interior and/or exterior surfaces hewn from the natural stone or wood native to their settings. They are frequently oriented to furnish gasp-inducing views of nature, particularly natural water features. They often showcase designs reflecting the lines of their topographical surroundings. And they almost always blur traditional divides between interior spaces and the great outdoors.
All these qualities and others are common to the quartet of West Coast waterfront homes or communities described below. All provide a visual and material connection to nature, and feature air flow variability and dynamic light quality that serve to welcome the outside into interior spaces, granting occupants a sense of unfettered access to the natural world.
3eleven Sea Ridge, La Jolla, Calif.
The Pacific Ocean provides the backdrop for this home on the Cabrillo National Monument Foundation in La Jolla’s exclusive Bird Rock enclave. Featuring natural stone evoking its environment, the home includes four bedrooms, four baths, two powder baths, a media room, game room and fitness center, all with outdoor access. Its 1,300-square-foot rooftop deck makes the most of the home’s southerly orientation, incorporating not only a spa, bar and covered outdoor dining spaces, but awe-inspiring vistas of the region’s legendary wave breaks. Views over the ocean are repeated on each of the home’s multiple levels.
One Coast, Pacific Palisades, Calif.
The Pacific Palisades bluffs are the setting for this enclave of 53 oceanfront townhouses and single-level flats that come complete with ocean-to-mountain panoramas. The 2,810- to 5,017-square-foot lock-and-leave residences from etco Homes offer seamless indoor-to-outdoor living. Top-floor domiciles provide private rooftop decks ready made for barbecues and hot tubs, and all homes incorporate graceful verandas. In an era finding many buyers avidly seeking wide-open spaces and proximity to nature, One Coast is proving to be one of the markets most attractive to those escaping the density of their pre-COVID lives .
One Steuart Lane, San Francisco
This 20-story tower is being built on San Francisco’s elegant waterfront avenue, directly along the city’s famed Embarcadero and perched between office buildings of leading brands. Once unveiled in spring of next year, its 120 luxe residences will feature 40-foot wraparound terraces, most of them affording wide-open views of the bay and the bridge from their private outdoor living spaces. The Skidmore Owings & Merrill-designed tower will also offer a second-story “sun terrace” with plenty of nature’s finest greenery.
The Emerald, Seattle
Promises of forever-unobstructed views of downtown Seattle’s waterfront are among selling points of this 39-story tower to open this year above the Emerald City’s Pike Place Market. The tower’s materials echo the natural landscape surrounding Puget Sound. On the 3rd floor, an outdoor dog run and open air terrace will bring residents closer to nature, while the 39th floor amenity suite will offer a pair of outdoor terraces with dining, lounges and fireplace. Seattle’s exterior views inform the choice of interior materials. Views of water, mountains and ever-changing weather convinced designers to opt for a more subtle interior palette complementing rather than competing with the dramatic views