Page House - Berkeley, CA (USA)

A cubic house

In California, a ceramic art dealer decided to build a home and gallery from this material. The result is a perfect monolithic cube clad with porcelain tile
Katrin Cosseta
Naho Kubota
Ajay Manthripragada
Heritage Marble and Tile
Import Tile
Year of completion

A sombre cubic monolith squatting like an alien presence in a quiet residential neighbourhood, Page House stands out from the monotonous landscape of the industrial outskirts of Berkeley, California. It is the home and gallery of a contemporary ceramic artwork collector and dealer, «which was why the client wanted the façade cladding and patio paving to be made of this material», explained architect Ajay Manthripragada. The heart of the project is the use of Italian-made extruded porcelain panels in a 120×120 cm size (Nuovocorso, Inimitabile collection, colour Lavagna). The choice was both aesthetic and compositional in nature: «The colour and large size of the ceramic panels helps to create a monolithic image» while forming a modular grid into which the façade openings can be set. Other important criteria included functionality, considering «the material’s durability and low maintenance», and sustainability given that the surface acts as a thermal mass, absorbing and retaining energy for the home. The double-wall system allows the utilities and downpipes to be hidden from view within the cavity, while the fully retractable sliding window systems ensure the maximum formal rigour.
Seven rows of square panels create a visually hard and impenetrable cubic volume, although its rigidity is softened by the unconventional fenestration. At its base the cube is hollowed out in one corner to create the entrance vestibule, counterbalanced by a large French window on the opposite side. The strict orthogonal layout of the joints does not constrict the fenestration but instead becomes a pretext for dynamism, for breaking rules and splitting up alignments. Three types of windows are used, different on each side: pocket windows (with the frame set back from the façade), flush framed windows (ribbon windows in the bathroom and the upper-floor kitchen) and frameless windows (in the entrance). A ceiling skylight illuminates the upper-floor living area. In terms of organisation, the interior layout is based on a recurring scheme in which the walls branch off from the main stairwell. Although the interior living area is relatively small, just 150 square metres in size, the project opts for very open and usable, albeit compact, spaces, with retracting doors that define the distribution routes between the various rooms. The ground floor houses the living room and gallery space, the first floor the kitchen, living and sleeping areas and the bathroom, and above this the terraced roof with its parapet aligned with the top row of façade tiles. The minimalist and harmonious furnishings were chosen in white and pale wood tones, including the floor, with the clear intention of expanding the sense of space. But the first-floor bathroom marks a return to the deep, sombre colour of slate with the choice of the same porcelain tiles that form the building’s envelope, creating a further connection between interior and exterior.

Nuovocorso, Inimitabile
porcelain stoneware
120mm x 120mm, 66.5mm x 200mm
Technical characteristics
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): compliant
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): compliant
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
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