A Norwegian ‘amoeba’ for California couple

Gail Taylor
Tuesday 02 Aug 2016

The completion of a nature-embracing kitchen and dining pavilion marks the latest stage in an 11-year creative collaboration

Norwegian-born, California-based architect, Casper Mork-Ulnes, recently completed an unusual amoeba-like pavilion housing a kitchen and dining area. This now forms an extension to a sky-lit artist’s studio he designed the year before for a creative couple living on a three-acre farm in Sonoma County, Northern California. The clients are Lars Richardson, an entrepreneur dealing in Scandinavian art and antiques, and Laila Carlsen, a painter.

The main structure is a 2,500 sq ft artist’s studio, office, and storage building that is clad in barn wood, though inverts the pitched-roof form of the original. The inverted pitch roof creates sweeping double height spaces for art production and storage, while providing natural ventilation, natural light, and views out toward the property.

A 720 sq ft concrete kitchen and dining space now grows out from the studio. Nicknamed the ‘Amoeba’, it reaches toward the landscape and literally captures it to create a lush interior garden that softly separates the kitchen from the dining area. The roof is an exposed wood, scissor-beam roof construction with a large, diffuse skylight that brings light into the center of the building for people and plants. 

Though its form and material may seem foreign, it follows a similar pitched form as its host and is board-formed using the same barn wood as formwork. When the concrete had dried the boards were removed and reused as a fence elsewhere on the property, further continuing a many decades-old material lineage.

Though easily sealed off from the elements, the Amoeba has sliding glass doors that can completely open and take full advantage of Sonoma County’s clement weather. The new addition flows out to the garden where the homeowners planted bamboo, bird-of-paradise plants, aloes, edible taro, a fig tree and some creeping vines.

Mork-Ulnes and his team have been collaborating with Richardson and Carlsen ever since the couple moved from San Francisco to Sonoma in 2005. Work on the property is still ongoing 11 years later. The new masterplan includes a new pool and a pool-house in front of the Amoeba that is currently on the drawing board, ready to be implemented in 2017.

WAN House of the Year Award 2016 now open. For more information contact:


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Gail Taylor

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