modest materiality

photos by Scott Landry / Studio 101 Designs

This recently completed residential care building for The New Camaldoli Hermitage (the coolest monks I have ever met) in Big Sur is a great example of the use of modest eco-materials used in elegant ways. The monks of The New Camalodoli Hermitage have made a life commitment to stay at the monastery and their cells and therefore require on-site health care as they age. Wanting the building to be simple and humble, yet functional, we chose materials that are earthy, long-lasting and clean. The exterior is cor-ten steel (that won’t have to be refinished or repainted or have maintenance) with elements of of ochre integral colored cement board (and since the color is integral it also will not require maintenance, refinishing or repainting in the future). The interior is fsc-certified teak cabinets and the flooring is a strand-woven bamboo and slate. The walls are kept a simple white to allow paintings by the monks (a number of the monks are very talented artists). Solatubes are used to sculpt in natural light. The idea is that the peaceful beauty comes from the contemplation gardens, courtyards and the artwork to create a space for healing for decades to come.

The building is composed of 4 modules that were built in Oregon and shipped down to Big Sur, which was no easy feat.

I highly recommend a visit to the monastery. Overlooking the ocean, it is one of the most inspiring and deeply spiritual places.

Project Team
Client: New Camaldoli Hermitage
Architect: Michelle Kaufmann Designs + Studio 101 Designs: Michelle Kaufmann, Scott Landry, Stephen Rice, James Kean
Contractor: Frank Pinney
Modular Factory: Blazer Construction
Structural Engineer: Marlou Rodriguez
Site Engineer: Fall Creek Engineering / Peter Haase
Landscape Design: Joni Janecki
Owner’s Consultant: Terry McHenry
Permitting Guru: Arden Handshy
Counsel: Frank Hughes
Medical Consultant: Dr. John Clark
Site Construction: Mule Mountain Construction, Blaze Engineering, Torre Engineering
Retreats at the monastery
photos by Scott Landry / Studio 101 Designs

8 Responses to “modest materiality”

  1. Steven Holmes says:


  2. sheryl says:

    I agree – beautiful.

    Though – The fixtures on the cabinets might be tough for someone in robes.

  3. Jaime says:

    Hi michelle, I like your work !!! maybe you could go to chili to help people to reconstruct the country after the big earthquake .. you know responsable architecture !!! modest material, but houses builded smarty …

    i love your work .. i am chilean living in france ..i build a passivhouse …and i have taken some ideas from your prefab book ..i bought this and i loved it …!!! in france there a lot o people looking for wood house like yours …smart, fontionality , non energybore etc… i would like to send you some pics about my home ..maybe you could give me some ideas about deco :)

  4. Herb says:

    I think the idea of the materials most interesting. Maintenance free is wonderful and a great money saver. The colors are wonderful.
    The interior is simple and beautiful.

  5. Cal says:

    Very nice. I love the durability, look and color of cor-ten but wonder about it’s isulation/energy efficient characteristics. It seems like it might abosorb and conduct heat poorly, but I have no experience with the material.

  6. MK says:

    Cal, we actually have corten on the house I live in, and with proper insulation in the walls, it doesn’t negatively effect the interior temperature of the home. We love the low-maintenance aspect and the velvet, organic feel.

  7. Shannon Martinez says:

    Hi Michelle, I had the priviledge to visit your Smart Home in Chicago at the museum July of 2010. I loved your home, I am grateful to have a leader like you influence some of the builders I have had a chance to work with in California. One of my friends is very interested in doing what you have done on a larger scale and is looking for financial support. He has the County of Los Angeles interested and so I thought I would reach out to you to see if you might be interested in speaking to my business collegue Mike. You may send me an e-mail and let me know if you are building in California. I am a lender and I would like to be able to support you with your homes in the finacing sector of getting the buyers financing for your homes. Thank you for your ingenuity I am honored to have met you by visiting your Smat Home:)

  8. Evrim says:

    Hi, I love your designs especially the one with a rooftop garden that extra water falls into a pond. I have lived in a ‘house on wheels’ before and I can see that your designs makes living in a prefab home so modern.
    To have an idea is there a way to find out how much do your houses start from? Can they be built for any climate?

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