Home Sweet Deconstructivist Home


Architect Richard Dalrymple’s continually evolving San Diego bungalow is a personal laboratory of deconstructivist living. The 1,300-square-foot, two-story house has 30 different levels on which to pause, stand, sit and sleep. “It’s about parcelization,” Dalrymple says. “This house deals with parts rather than a sense of wholeness.” Like other deconstructivist dwellings--this architectural style born to challenge all architectural norms was brought into focus by The Museum of Modern Art’s 1988 exhibition--the house overflows with decidedly non-traditional features: careening walls, a catwalk, a disappearing roof and windows that fly past walls and into space.

Reminiscent of a Hollywood set, the gabled exterior of Dalrymple’s home--which he shares with his wife, Barbara, and their 16-year-old daughter, Kelly--features a drawbridge that “allows for cross-ventilation, acts as a deck, animates the facade and lets my dog Willie have a view.” In San Diego’s Mission Hills, temperatures hover in the 70s and low 80s, so the bridge is down most of the year. “Bugs fly in, and they fly out,” Dalrymple says, unconcerned. “Often a bird will fly in through the drawbridge and out through the dining-room roof-hatch.” The various apertures of the house--which Dalrymple named Home Sweet Home--do away with conventional notions of interior and exterior spaces and capitalize on San Diego’s ideal climatic conditions. A white-picket-fenced stairway marches up the front of the house to an unexpected second-story entry. (The tight parcel of land--35x60 feet--dictated the exterior staircase.) Visitors climbing into the sky and walking the catwalk into the living room feel as if they are calling on the Swiss Family Robinson. Once inside, other humorous--albeit slightly unsettling--features appear: the 10-degree cant of the bathroom wall; the enormous 8x8-foot living room window that props open, suspended in space by knee braces, and the four free-standing walls--loose pieces of Dalrymple’s house puzzle--that form the dining room.

Dalrymple’s firm, Pacific Associates Planners Architects, handles a wide spectrum of residential and commercial projects, including more conventional structures, and has racked up 17 architectural awards for its work. But Dalrymple is proudest of his own house: He won a prestigious AIA Honor Award for Home Sweet Home when it was still in the planning stage, and he calls it his “most satisfying award so far.”


“The house is about breaking notions of how we live,” Dalrymple says. “A lot of people put the kitchen on the ground floor, rationalizing that it’s easier to take in groceries. I thought it should be up high to take advantage of the light and view opportunities.” The back yard--complete with palm tree, spa and pit barbecue--landed on the roof. “We cook our steaks 30 feet off the ground,” he boasts. An upcoming attraction in the ever-changing house: a bed on tracks that slides outside so they can sleep under the stars. “A house to me is the way you take part in it,” he says; “the way it captures the indoor-outdoor feeling of Southern California.”

When will the house be finished? “Never,” he says. “Like a human being, it keeps getting better.”