The American Institute of Architects Marin Home Tour 2013

There are so many ways to live in Marin. An eclectic selection was showcased in the North Bay edition of the looky-loop.

Marin Multicellular Home

Photo by AIA-SF/Iwan Baan You've never seen a home like this one, unless you were on the AIA-SF Marin Home Tour this year. 

A similar selection process went into the Marin version of the AIA-SF Home Tour. Architects submitted their projects, and the committee based their selections based on beauty, sustainability and harmony.

Marin is different from San Francisco in more ways than just being across the Golden Gate Bridge. Life is slower there, and when people talk about the extraordinary natural beauty of the Bay Area, this is what they're usually thinking of. The terrain is spectacular, but also challenging: hilly, unpredictable and diverse, ranging from dense forest to pristine shoreline.

"The scenic landscape is one of the reasons so many people live in Marin," says Helen Wong, the institute's communications director. "But it's also the main challenge for the architects: how to navigate the land and design while working with that terrain." 

Marin's architectural history is respectable. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Marin Civic Center, and George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch is located here. Geeky locals (is there any other kind?) get a kick out of noting the similarities between the Civic Center and the Galactic Senate on Naboo. It's also home to the Sausalito houseboats and countless hot tubs.

For this tour, though, the homes have one thing in common: their connection to nature and the environment. The Multicellular House becomes part of a steep hill by existing not as one structure, but as an elegant 3-D puzzle made of interlocking, interconnecting blocks raised on columns to allow for mostly undisturbed undergrowth. House on the Bay follows the line of the beach so that, even inside, residents can sense their proximity to the water. And The Shack, designed by the owner, a landscape designer, in concert with his architect, ingeniously hints at the outdoors by using reclaimed wood indoors, blurring the lines between interior and exterior to seemingly extend the house throughout the surrounding property.

Whether the residents are millionaires or nuns, the Marin tour's homes share a common goal: Let nature take center stage.

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