Guest House for an Anthropologist by Air Architecture


Los Angeles architect François Perrin of Air Architecture has recently completed this guest house for a Buddhism expert in Brentwood, California.

The polycarbonate-clad timber house, set beside an existing home, houses the owner's collection of Buddhist paraphernalia and will host visiting scholars.

The building aims to be self-sufficient in energy, once photovoltaic panels and wind turbines are installed.

Photos are by Joshua White. Here's some text from Perrin:


This is a guest house for an anthropologist to store the collection he gathered during 20 years in Asia and host visiting Buddhist scholars. Similar structures will be build in Taiwan and Sri Lanka.

The structure is a wood frame (the common construction type in California) clad with a clear polycarbonate skin. The clear plastic skin creates an optical illusion with the sunlight that makes the project disappear at some times like a mirage and thus creates a minimal impact to the existing house and neighborhood.

The project is using an "air" insulation, which is a void in between the wood frame and the translucent skin that protects the interior (the anthropologist's collection) from the cold and the heat. The project is also using cross ventilation from the specific position of the opening and the operable skylight on the roof to cool down the building in extreme summer heat, catching the ocean's breeze in the afternoon through the operable skylight.

Regarding the energy, the project uses solar panels on the roof and plans to add some wind turbines to be fully off the grid as this is a prototype for an habitat that the client will build in Sri Lanka and Taiwan.

The materials for these projects will be different as the Brentwood project was built out of local material (redwood) and using a technique (wood framing) that are both specific to California.

Posted by Rupinder Bhogal

Posted on Thursday January 10th 2008 at 9:34 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • it´s reminds me of a house build by florian nagler,

  • couldn’t any contractor frame up something like this in a couple of days, no plans needed?

    not to belittle the architect, other projects on his website look much more interesting.

  • Andrew

    I love this. I’ve always had a fascination with buildings during their construction phase, when you can see structure laid bare, sans walls etc.

  • bald skull

    personally, i don’t like the aesthetics of this house. but had a chance to chat w/ François in the past and he was a friendly and helpful guy.

  • fran

    Andrew… I insist… Read… The house is already finished… This is the main problem with architects nowadays, they only see but they never read.

    If i had some mistakes, I will ask for your forgiveness, english is not my maternal languaje.

  • Bozo

    whoahh yeah.
    Cool concept. Little budget, big results.

  • Andrew

    Fran, sorry if my reply sounded like I thought the house was incomplete. I do know that it’s finished, and as I love buildings under construction, to “leave” it at that stage, and just cover it with polycarbonate, i think, makes for a great result. I love when you see a structure that’s finished, but still visible are its “nuts and bolts” so to speak, what’s keeping it together.

    Sorry again for the misunderstanding!

  • Blake

    fran got pwned! Don’t worry Andrew, I was able to correctly read what you wrote.

  • K. Rimane

    so, this is an office not quite the house right? Too woody if you ask me. Reminds me the Ingale’s little house on the prairie.
    Get some more comfy furniture. it’ll soften the lines i think.

  • floyd landis

    The only way this structure could get a permit is as an unheated pavillion due to energy code requirements. “Air” insulation does not meet the code for the simple reason that it doesn’t work. I would expect the wall cavities to fill with condensation and eventually mold. More crap from dezeen.

  • Très joli!

  • Damfak

    Somehow the buiding feels like it´s not finished… there is not a visible conecction with what is inside… I´m not sure if I like it or not….

  • r.n

    This is only a curiosity…

  • Gordon


    it is in California dude,
    likely in a part that does not require heating.
    Sunshine will take care of any moisture . . .

  • Andrew

    California exactly… “air insulation”

    Give me a break…and bare (porous) ply provided how much protection against moisture buildup in the walls? (as mentioned: floyd landis)

  • I like it because it reminds me of a fort or treehouse, and it’s a low budget project. Though I agree that I would add some more traditional comfy furniture to contrast the shed like finish and soften the lines (K. Rimane) Also, I believe that the wall system is vented, therefore acting like a trombe wall. So, in that case I wouldn’t be too worried about the condensation and mold issue. (floyd landis) but I agree that there would def be a code issue. My one main criticism is the brutal nature in which it connects to the adjacent structure…

  • revcrank

    I think they are pushing it with the “air” insulation. I’m not familiar with the climate there, but polycarbonate has a nasty habit of getting dirt, water, etc. into its cells. Depending on what they did at the joints, they may start to stain, as well as all the stuff mentioned before my post with condensation, etc. I understand the budget was tight, but I would think a better way to do it would be with a fastener-free standing seam polycaronate system and fill it with nanogel. It would probably make it translucent instead of transparant, but at least it would have a insulation instead of “air”

  • I am the anthropologist referred to concerning the project. When my father passed away, my mother received some funds and decided to construct a work place for her son. Features of the space unfolded through discussion with Francois Perrin. The project is for 18 ft high color-coded shelves against a wall and wraps across to a loft. Materials from Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka, China, and the Pacific are arranged to catalog for studies related to the electronic cultural atlas initiative (

    In terms of the interior – exterior situation, this research space from last summer to this winter remains very comfortable without heater or air conditioner. It uses a minimum of electricity powering a light bulb and Internet service. No mold, just dry. The exterior reflects UV light, and allows soft warmth in. In summer the two roof skylights open for circulating air. The structure is about two miles from the ocean providing a constant breeze.

    It’s a good place to work.

  • Richard

    Ever hear of insulation in California? The sun is hot . This should be called Hot Box…..

  • Authencity

    The concept is fabulous – the skeleton of the building, although brutalist in execution, is faithful to the integrity of the materials used. The rawness of the timber has an honesty which references pre-capitalist building constructs and, I suspect, is sympathetic to the owner’s conceptualisation of form and living spaces. I like it enormously.

  • Sung, Lakhyung

    I’m Sung, Lakhyung, an architect in South Korea. I have built various types of buildings such as churches, houses, as well as resort lodges. Recently, I met a client who wants to build a Timber house. However, it is very difficult to find resources and information about Timeber houses in South Korea. I’ve been searching for this information for last several months and found your Website. I’d love to contact with you regarding importing Timber wood if you have any information about it. Additionally, I’d love to receive information on how to build a Timber house. It would be highly appreciated if you can send me some information/resources regarding either Timber wood or building a Timber house. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


    Sung, Lakhyung

  • mcmlxix

    This is a great concept, but I would have liked to have seen the use of more finished materials. Plywood is too gimmicky.

    “The clear plastic skin creates an optical illusion with the sunlight that makes the project disappear at some times like a mirage and thus creates a minimal impact to the existing house and neighborhood.” Sometimes architect-speak makes politicians sound like they really have something to say.

    And “…the project is using an air insulation…” what oh what is the insulating property of air. This would make more sense if there was a sealed vacuum between the inner and outer skins. I’m just glad per the owner, that the space is ambiently comfortable.