Active growing children and a central urban house on a steep slope led the owners of this compound to think farther afield when considering a weekend escape. They found an idyllic site an hour and a half from home on which to stretch their legs. The couple rehired architect Malcolm Davis, who designed their primary residence, to help them define their project and build a rural counterpoint to their full-time urban dwelling. The idea was to enclose the structure as little as possible to maintain the sense of a camp, a building completely focused on the outdoors. The client’s original inspiration images included tents pitched on a deck and a possible prefabricated structure. The images and informal flexible program struck a chord with Davis’s Northern California Regionalist background. Louis Mumford defined the style as “a native and humane form of modernism… a free yet unobtrusive expression of the terrain, the climate and the way of life” on the coast and in the coastal valleys of Northern California.

Naturalistic drought-resistant native plantings by landscape architect Cary Bush of Merge Studio help soften the surrounding area that is ringed by a 30-inch high, step-over corrugated Cor-Ten fence, which deters unwelcome rattlesnakes. For more effective shelter from the elements—the scorching sun, coastal fog, and rain that frequents the area—Davis devised two rectilinear dogtrot structures. Each one was carefully crafted by Fairweather & Associates from low-maintenance and wildfire-resistant materials: concrete slabs for the flooring; corrugated Cor-Ten steel that blends into the landscape, for exterior cladding; and heat-reflecting, galvanized corrugated metal for the roofs.

Located on 165 acres, twenty minutes from the closest paved road, Camp Baird is situated on the sole generous level spot in a coastal valley dense with oaks and bay trees. The compound is completely off the grid, even cellular service is spotty. The concept placed two structures on the property; a car barn and a main pool house placed in an L-shaped orientation. The main structure has three primary enclosed multi-functional spaces on opposite ends of the central south-facing porch. These spaces can be used for any variety of activities: sleeping, gathering, lounging, yoga or playing games. “The house is about the kids coming to play and being out in the country… it is not fully a house because it is a camp with a big shed roof structure and a big porch. The kitchen and main shower are pretty much outside… as architects, we stood back and let nature be the star.”