Coscia Day’s Skywave House

House of the Issue News

Steel roof forms seem to float above glass walls in Coscia Day’s winglike construction.
Erhard Pfeiffer

the exposed structure is protected by a tight venice lot.
photographs by erhard pfeiffer

Anthony Coscia designed his Skywave House in Venice as a place to live, work, and explore ideas. A curved sheet of steel provides shade and protection, and walls of glass open up to dense plantings on the 40-by-120-foot lot. Step inside, and you can take in the 90-foot-long interior at a glance, with its open stairs leading to floating platforms, glass-walled rooms, and sliding doors. There’s a palpable sense of openness, and the abundant natural light, reflections, and green vistas obliterate the divide between inside and out.

Coscia Day Architecture + Design have spent two decades designing inventive houses, smart commercial spaces, and restaurants like Natalee Thai, Azia, and Xi’an in Venice and Beverly Hills. In each of these projects, the architects started with a simple model before using computer software to model a sculptural enclosure that wraps around its occupants as fluidly as a robe embracing a body. Indeed, one inspiration for the Skywave House was an exhibition of Issey Miyake’s A-POC garments made from a single, laser-cut piece of cloth. The immediate point of departure was a small model of a desk the architects were working on: a floating wing atop a glass shape.

Following these investigations of surface and space, Coscia folded a single sheet of paper, like origami, but with a more fluid form. “That first model had more creases in it than the final design,” he recalled. The soft curvilinear forms came after living on the site, a short walk from the rounded waves of the ocean, and from both the smoothly curved furniture of the past decade and the bent plywood work of Eames, he added. 

steel is cut away to pull light into the multi-level interior, with skylights that draw in ocean breezes.

The steel is cut away to pull light into the center of the house and to vent hot air in summer. Living this close to the ocean, there is no need for air conditioning, and the house is designed to achieve a high level of sustainability. The standing-seam roof and upper wall cladding are painted white to diffuse the sun, while scoop skylights and motorized windows on the west side draw in ocean breezes. Concrete floors absorb the winter sun and incorporate radiant heating that can be powered from solar panels. The kitchen-dining space floats over a raised thermal base filled with the excavated dirt of the concrete grade beams, and this cools the house in summer.

The top floor overlooks the living room, with abundant views over the densely planted lot.

Though the house is set back from the boundary line on all four sides, it seems to fill the site, and that gives it a visceral immediacy. Step through the gate and it fills your field of vision, swelling and stretching like a living creature. Canted, tilted, and curved planes impart a sense of movement. The interior is treated like a transparent loft, with a monochromatic palette and spare organic furnishings. Each space flows into the next, carrying one through the multi-level interior from the terrace and living room at the front, and a glass-walled office below, to the lofty central area for eating and entertaining and on to the upper-level master suite in back. “The house has changed us and the way we live,” said Coscia. “Though I’ve known it from the moment of conception, I’m constantly making fresh discoveries.”

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