Upper Rockridge Residence

This had been the site of a house by William Wurster until the Oakland Firestorm of 1991. Our clients acquired the lot a number years later and started down the path toward their dream home with several different architects before coming to AAA Architecture with Randolph R. Ruiz and Benjamin Parco.

We were asked to design a house for this site that would maximize views, connect to the outdoors, feature expressive materiality, and embody the modernists principals of California’s best architecture. Through their previous design efforts, the clients had developed preconceptions for the house, but we convinced them to explore new possibilities with us. As a result, we were able to arrive at an unexpected solution that created a large street-facing courtyard to maximize the spaces that enjoy bay views.

Two offset “bars” were used to create front and rear courtyards divided by a two-story breakfast space. The ground floor is organized by four parallel lines of masonry walls oriented toward the site’s views. These walls define the house’s two bars and are both interrupted and connected by windows and glass doors. The eastern wall of each bar is buttressed at regular intervals to subtly define interior spaces and to eliminate the need for interrupting shear walls or expensive moment frames. The second floor is composed within four boxes balanced upon the masonry walls below, and clad in charred cedar. Large glass windows at this level are framed in projecting metal hoods that address the harsh western sun exposure.

The modules of the insulated, ground-face concrete block helped impose a rigor to the plans that is easily lost in wood frame construction. The blocks allowed for an honest and attractive expression of structure that brought a lot of architectural value to both the interior and exterior while conveying the texture and permanence of stone. Furthermore, the thermal mass and integral insulation of the block allowed us to open up large areas of glass and still outperform California’s stringent energy requirements by a large margin.

The house utilizes a wide range of techniques and features to reduce its impact on the environment and its occupants. These include high-efficiency fixtures and equipment, zoned HVAC, low-VOC coatings, under slab radon venting, efficient framing techniques, and drought tolerant landscaping.


  • Oakland, California


  • Benjamin Parco, Parco Studio


  • César Rubio & AAA


  • AIA East Bay: Exceptional Residential Honor Award


  • 2015