For a writer, the perfect work space is simpler than that of many creative professionals. Authors primarily need two things: solitude and a view. For those wordsmiths fortunate enough to be accepted into the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, both aspects are readily supplied by a collection of stunning, solar-powered, live-work studios set amidst the beautiful Northern California wilderness.
Program founder Carl Djerassi commissioned the project as a memorial to his late wife, Diane Middlebrook, an American biographer and professor at Stanford University. When architect Cass Calder Smith, a childhood friend of Djerassi’s son, was brought on board, Smith was immediately awed by the property, 500 acres of rolling hills overlooking the Pacific Coast near the town of Woodside. “I knew the studios had to look out over that landscape,” Smith says.
The nature of the Diane Middlebrook Studios—280-square-foot units that are available to artists of all stripes but cater especially to the needs of writers—drove the design. “I was inspired by the need for both privacy and interaction,” says Smith, principal and CEO of CCS Architecture, which has offices in San Francisco and New York City. “Each studio contains a certain degree of privacy to provide the selective isolation that a writer would want. But I also wanted them to be a collective.”
The four one-room studios are noticeably skewed a few degrees from each other, breaking the idea of uniformity. However, they are conceptually and physically connected by a canopy roof that spans all four studios. Atop that roof is a solar array—paid for by a private donor—that provides most of the studios’ electrical needs. The strategic positioning of studio doors toward the southwest reduces energy consumption, and sleeping nooks are situated behind the working areas, farthest away from the light. Altogether, the project is a tangible memorial to its namesake, a woman who revered the work of artists and produced her own reverential work.