Phoenix House by Sebastian Mariscal Studio

We had the opportunity to tour the amazing Phoenix House that Sebastian Mariscal Studio is building for a client in North Coastal San Diego (Cardiff-by-the-Sea).  Its great to tour a house under construction with the architect, who can explain the design philosophy around each area.  The house is totally concrete, rare in San Diego.  It features numerous courtyards and roof gardens that will be planted with trees and other vegetation.  The house is 2 stories + basement (which is also rare in San Diego).

The courtyards are simply not open dirt areas but are built on top of the basement and are of varying depths, some are deep for trees and others less so.  Even the roof gardens are deep so that trees can be planted.

The house leads in from mystery with areas that feature beautiful shadows to bright open but private areas.  Brings to mind the architectural essay book “In Praise of Shadows” by Junichiro Tanizaki:

And so it has come to be that the beauty of a Japanese room depends on the variation of shadows, heavy shadows against light shadows—it has nothing else. Westerners are amazed at the simplicity of Japanese rooms, perceiving in them no more than ashen walls bereft of ornament. Their reaction is understandable, but it betrays a failure to comprehend the mystery of shadows. Out beyond the sitting room, which the rays of the sun at best can but barely reach, we extend the eaves or build a veranda, putting the sunlight at still greater a remove. The light from the garden steals in but dimly through paper-paneled doors, and it is precisely this indirect light that makes for us the charm of the room. We do our walls in neutral colors so that the sad, fragile, dying rays can sink into absolute repose. The storehouse, kitchen, hallways, and such may have a glossy finish, but the walls of the sitting room will almost always be of clay textured with fine sand. A luster here would destroy the soft fragile beauty of the feeble light. We delight in the mere sight of the delicate glow of fading rays clinging to the surface of a dusky wall, there to live out what little life remains to them. We never tire of the sight, for to us this pale glow and these dim shadows far surpass any ornament…

From the foyer, up the stairs, across the floating bridge, to the second floor living area.

Interesting contrast with the neighbor’s house – after the vegetation is planted, the neighbor’s house will be less visible.

Slate floors

Indoor window

The dining and kitchen area leads to a roof garden that is deep enough for trees, at the other end of the roof garden is a children’s study room.

A roof patio with a sweeping ocean view – typically such a patio would be placed at the edge of the house closest to the ocean view, but this patio is set back behind a roof garden so that privacy could be preserved and still preserve the view.

The “floating” stairs will be filled in with glass.

Master bathroom (shower area) can open up to one of the courtyards

The back of the house

The varying depths of the courtyard makes for an interesting ceiling in the basement which features a huge garage.

A rendering video of what the house will be like when completed and filled in with vegetation can be seen here.  Sebastian Mariscal Studio is also building the Dwell House in Venice and its progress is being blogged by the client here on

This entry was posted in architect, architecture, construction, cool stuff, design, San Diego. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Phoenix House by Sebastian Mariscal Studio

  1. enjoyed revisiting this house through your post, sent to us by jeff s, our friend and neighbor down the street. that lead to a longer than planned tour through your blog, which i enjoyed as well, both for the observations and photography. we admired your house when it appeared in dwell, so it is interesting to see it this way. not too much interesting contemporary architecture in north county, so glad to have company! we are in an early wallace cunningham design, aperture, overlooking san elijo lagoon. perhaps we could interest you sometime in a mutual house tour? you can learn more about us from our photography site ( and preview the house at

  2. delicio8 says:

    I’m sorry, it looks like a prison to me. I guess I just don’t appreciate this type of architecture. I think I would cry if I had to live there.

  3. dipperchakra says:

    so,,.that’s look stiff,..i think..

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