Aaron Green was retained by Joseph Eichler to prepare a Master Plan for a site in San Mateo to be identified as “The Highlands.” Eichler was a renowned developer and builder of communities of moderate-cost modern homes, whose design were largely inspired by his experience of living in a residence by Frank Lloyd Wright.
“The Highlands” project, from 1961, would have been a development of a northwest section of a same-named neighborhood, begun by Eichler in 1956. There would be 59 homes planned for the hilled site. Aaron Green prepared three distinctive designs for residences, all completely in contrast to Eichler’s built portfolio. Each represented an appropriate response to the varying gradient of the site’s topographyall intended to minimize grading operations as much as possible.
“Sunspot” was the simplest of the designs, basically square in plan, single-story, and best-suited for a relatively level site. It was conceptually “halved” for organization of the spaces within. One half was partitioned for the private bedroom and bath spaces, the other half contained living room, kitchen, and dining and was entirely open-planned. Every space within was open to the broad, sheltering hipped roof above. At its center and highest point was a pyramidal shaped skylight, which introduced pleasant natural daylighting into the middle of the house. Partitions for the bedrooms stopped at eight feet above the floor and then were filled with glass to the underside of the sloping ceiling to take advantage of the same skylight. A massive concrete masonry fireplace, off of center, anchors the living space. Opposite, the entire exterior wall is glazed floor to ceiling, dissolving any visual barrier from the interior to the landscaped rear yard just beyond.
“The Semicircle” was a two-story residence for a more moderately sloping site, and as the name suggests, was designed with a radial theme of arcs and intersecting circles. One entered from the upper level into an open, flowing space, gently arcing away to left and right. It contained the living, kitchen, dining, and a multi-purpose space all united under a flat roof of exposed wood beams and decking. All spaces opened to a broad, projecting balcony that extended the full length of the residence. A circular concrete masonry cylinder at the entry contained a stair down to a full level below. It was naturally lit from above by a large circular skylight. The inboard wall of the level below was a solid retaining wall to restrain the sloping site, and served as a corridor connecting the Master Bedroom/Bath suite, as well as three additional bedrooms and one bathall line upon the outboard arcing exterior wall. Each bedroom opens upon a concrete-paved terrace with views to the landscaped rear yard. A complete set of Construction Documents were prepared for this design.
“The Arrow” was the most dramatic of the residences, a two-story structure as well, and planned for the steepest lots. It consisted of walls angled out towards views and rotated form masses, all under a single, enveloping gable roof. The residence was basically floated above the ground on clustered posts, sheathed in wood siding to become powerful vertical piers. No living space touched the ground; the steep site was largely left undisturbed. As with “The Semicircle,” the residence was entered at the upper level, which contained living room, dining, and kitchen in an open plan arrangement; the bedrooms were located upon the lower level.
Though Aaron Green’s development scheme was not executed, a client of Eichler’s came forward in 1962 and chose to build “The Sunspot” for his family in Palo Alto.