Box on the Rock by Schwartz and Architecture (SaA)


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Location: Sonoma, CA, US

Year: 2015

Architects: Schwartz and Architecture (SaA)

SaA Project Team: Wyatt Arnold, Erik Bloom

Structural Engineer: iAssociate

Contractor: Eames Construction, Inc.

Photography: @ Bruce Damonte


Builder’s Choice Custom Home Design Awards
Merit Award | Custom Home under 5,000 sq ft, 2015

AIA Redwood Empire Design Awards
People’s Choice Award | Unbuilt Architecture, 2015

The constricted footprint of the affectionately-named “Box on the Rock” is a response to a limited budget and a difficult site; shallow underground waterways run across the hillside, daylighting in unexpected and unwanted locations. This unreliable terrain necessitated relatively expensive pier footings, thus motivating an extremely compact and efficient 2,000 sq ft footprint. Given no initial resources to develop the wild scrub and rock landscape of the 3-acre property, the home becomes a lone outpost settling the higher ground of the larger natural site – a box on the rock.

Subjected to the extremes of the wine country microclimate on the exposed site, the central courtyard and the cantilevered deck are strategically carved out of the diagrammatic box to ensure that over the course of the day, temperate options for both sun and shade are always available. In particular, the geometry of the overhang at the front cantilevered deck and the inward angle of its exterior glass walls are carefully calibrated to capture morning sun and winter warming while shielding the internal space from the harshest summer glare. Later in the day, the central courtyard comes alive as the sunniest developed outdoor space, yet one that is naturally cooled by capturing the valley cross breezes.

Schwartz and Architecture (SaA)

Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte
Bruce Damonte


All images courtesy of Schwartz and Architecture (SaA) | ©  Bruce Damonte



Schwartz and Architecture (SaA)

Neal J.Z. Schwartz
Founding Principal

Neal established the collaborative design studio, Schwartz and Architecture (SaA) in 1997 after several years working on large-scale international projects with other firms. In 1992, he completed dual Master’s degrees in Architecture and Public Policy at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and the Kennedy School of Government respectively.

This unique combination of design and policy has become the foundation of his practice; a commitment to design creativity as a tool to surpass clients’ expectations, combined with a devotion to rigorous management of the exigencies of complex design, permitting, and construction processes. From the beginning, Neal has also committed the firm to significant pro-bono work with non-profits, including the Children’s Creativity Museum, Larkin Street Youth Services, La Cocina, Public Architecture, and the Abayudaya Stern Synagogue in Eastern Uganda.

In 2016, Neal became the Chair of the newly revived AIASF Public Policy & Advocacy Committee (PPAC) and in 2015, he independently established a joint working group between AIASF and SF Planning advocating for improvements to residential design procedures, which continues to result in much-needed change. From 2006 – 2009, Neal was on the Board of Directors for the National AIDS Memorial Grove, chairing the Memorial Design Committee working towards the capital campaign and design development of this national memorial. Neal has been actively involved in teaching since 1988, most recently as an associate professor in architecture at the California College of the Arts (CCA), where he currently coordinates the Master’s degree housing studios.

At Harvard, Neal graduated with Distinction in Architecture, received the Thayer Award for Meritorious Scholarship, the Sheldon Traveling Fellowship, as well as national awards from the Urban Land Institute and American Planning Association. He graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University receiving a Bachelor of Arts in European history and has studied and researched abroad in Vienna, Munich, and Berlin.



Schwartz and Architecture
860 Rhode Island St
San Francisco, CA 94107

415 550.0430

415 550.0431



Schwartz and Architecture (SaA)


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