Kramlich Residence and Collection
Oakville, Napa Valley, California, USA
Project 1997-2002, 2004-2008, realization 2007-2015

Pam and Dick Kramlich were introduced to us through Christian and Cherise Moueix, for whom we planned the Dominus Winery in the neighboring town of Yountville a few years ago. Cherise told us that, unlike the many influential art collectors living in Napa Valley, the Kramlichs collect media art, like video, films, CDs, slides, etc. Over dinner in a noisy restaurant we spoke almost exclusively about the videos Pam and Dick had acquired. We were very impressed by the fact that the Kramlichs would choose to focus on media art instead of succumbing to the temptation to collect "real", that is, traditional, tangible art that can be put on display. This uncompromising commitment surprised and fascinated us and later inspired the radical architectural approach to the task entrusted to us: a residence that would also be an exhibition space for media art or, conversely, an inhabitable media installation tailored to meet the daily requirements of Pam and Dick Kramlich. A home as a media installation or a media installation as a home?

Whichever way you look at it, our initial idea was to unite life and art, rather than separating them as usually happens in the case of media art. The alienation caused by darkened and wired rooms full of technical apparatus all too often leads to a break between viewer and artwork, which would be aggravated and even more bothersome in a home than in a public museum. We tried to come up with a spatial concept that would structure but not completely separate the various areas and needs of daily life: one single space with places that have different characters that can, in part, be set apart as intimate niches or more open areas. Our architectural treatment of the space was devised to allow the exterior, the interior, and the artists’ projected images to flow into each other.

From the beginning, we worked with the idea of curved, glazed walls because the curvature of the walls both enhances continuity and structures space while the transparency of the glass not only reveals the structuring but also allows it to be experienced as part of a greater whole. Once again glass fulfills the dual function that we love so much. On one hand, it verges on "nothing", on total transparency, on the absence of materiality. On the other, we exploit its materiality since the boundaries of the room become visible where the curved walls intersect. Due to the reflecting quality of glass, the curvature underscores both the visibility and the invisibility of the material.

In the first sketches the curved system of walls was limited and enclosed in a rectangular system. We then rejected this layout because we wanted to relate and blend inside and outside in a way that cannot be achieved with the classical, binary form of juxtaposition. In subsequent sketches we had all the longitudinal walls follow an undulating line so that inside and outside walls intersected, forming chambers for various uses. We finally came up with a concept for one large, undivided space with no hallways or other adjoining rooms. The result: a spatial continuum, open, flowing and unified, that also incorporates a potential grouping of space that meets the requirements of privacy.

Since our spatial concept was developed from inside out, we did not at first focus on the appearance of the house from outside. As it turned out, the space generated by the curvature led to a fish-shaped whole. However, we did not want a figurative analogy of this kind. We realized, in fact, that we didn’t want a building at all, or rather not a distinctive one that would immediately be identified with a specific shape. So we had to find a means of playing down the figurative and physical presence of the building. Suddenly we realized that the only viable solution was to project the roof as far as possible. The first models provided compelling confirmation of this insight. Gathered together under the roof, the seemingly organic shape suddenly dissolved into single curved walls again, which intersect with other curved walls as they proceed through the house, thus generating chambers of varying size and shape. The single wall, curved so that it is inside at times and outside at others, as its moves past bathroom or bedroom or living room, this wall that is both facade and interior partition, that is both nothing and something, this wall suddenly became visible again because the projecting roof had effectively dispelled the fullness of the sculptural shape that had been so conspicuous in the preceding phase of the project. When the projecting roof came into play, the spatial organization of the different portions of the total project suddenly came to the fore: the underground exhibition space, the ground-level glass construction, and the body of the roof.

The roof clearly had to be an independent piece of architecture in terms of construction, statics and materials. This also applies to the ground-level glass construction and to the underground exhibition space, even though the latter is not visible from outside as formed architecture. A terrace cut into the roof will provide direct outdoor access to nature under mighty oak trees (Live Oaks). The terrace allows unmediated, concrete, and direct physical contact with the outside world. The roof construction itself is experienced as an independent physical configuration, a tangible body, in contrast to the underground exhibition space and to a certain extent, the ground floor as well. Vertically, the architecture makes a journey from a virtual mental space underground up to the distinctly physical space of the roof.

The underground exhibition space intersects with the glass construction overhead, thus deviating from the traditional cellar as a basically congruent, below-ground continuation of a building. Instead the exhibition space functions as an autonomous structure, whose placement responds to the topography of the site and the access tunnels. The architectural structure of this underground space is barely perceptible from outside; it intentionally eludes the eye of the beholder; it denies its physical existence. It is a black box that is brought to life only through the illuminated projections of the artists. It is a mental space, a picture space. But, even so, it is designed to blend and mix with the daily life of the residents in various ways. A tunnel leads to the garage which also functions as a video gallery. There, a wall of 14 m (47 ft) will serve as a screen for Gary Hill’s video panorama, Viewer, in which 17 men are shown life-size standing in a row. Access to the house leads past this projection.

The area generated by the ground-floor glass structure is treated as a hybrid of material and immaterial space. On one hand, the glazed materiality of the curved walls with impressive views of Napa Valley constitutes a powerful physical experience of space and, on the other, the imagery of videos by such artists as Bill Viola, Matthew Barney or Gary Hill, projected onto these selfsame curved glass walls, evokes an immaterial, mental spatial experience. The fact that the same curved walls of glass and plastic are vehicles of a spatial concept that embraces both material and immaterial experience reinforces the complex treatment of space targeted in the Kramlich project.
Herzog & de Meuron, 1999


This project was developed in collaboration with an architect licensed in the state of California acting as the "Architect of Record". Herzog & de Meuron is not licensed to practice architecture in the state of California.


Phase I, Herzog & de Meuron Team (project 1997-2002):
Partners: Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron
Project Team: Jean-Frédéric Luscher (Associate)
Renata Arpagaus, Béla Berec (Workshop), Katsumi Darbellay, Matthew Gribben, David Jaehning, Lisa Kenney, Tiffany Melançon, Thomas Robinson

Phase II, Herzog & de Meuron Team (project 2004-2008, realization 2007-2015):
Partners: Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron (Partner in Charge), Ascan Mergenthaler
Project Team: Simon Demeuse (Associate, Project Manager), Mark Loughan (Associate), Charles Stone (Associate)
Arrate Abaigar Villota, Roman Aebi (Workshop), Joana Anes, Marcos Carreño, Edman Choy, Daniel Fernández, Eik Frenzel, Andreas Fries, Stefan Goeddertz, Jennifer Gutteridge, Christopher Haas, Volker Helm, Dara Huang, Colin Jeffrey, Maria Krasteva, Lap Chi Johnny Kwong, Dan Ladyman, María Ángeles Lerín Ruesca, Anna Little, Johnny Lui, Catherine Preiswerk, Pedro Ramalho, Martha Rawlinson, Rafael Sampaio Rocha, Philipp Schaefle, Günter Schwob (Workshop), Diana-Ionela Toader, Philip Turner, Zachary Vourlas


Richard and Pamela Kramlich, San Francisco, CA


Client Representative:
Aebhric Coleman


Phase I, Planning:

Design Consultant: Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland
Executive Architect: Valley Architects, St Helena, CA, USA
Landscape Design: Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland; Molly Chappellet, San Francisco, CA, USA
Construction Management: Nancy Batt and Associates Project Management, St Helena, CA, USA
Mechanical Engineering: Arup, San Francisco, CA, USA
Structural Engineering: Zucco Fagent Associates, Santa Rosa, CA, USA


Phase II, Planning:

Design Consultant: Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland
Executive Architect: Tanner Hecht, San Francisco, CA, USA
Construction Management: Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Co, San Francisco, CA, USA
Electrical Engineering: Suite 16, Santa Rosa, CA, USA
Mechanical Engineering: Gayner Engineers, San Francisco, CA, USA
Plumbing Engineering: Matt Williamson, San Francisco, CA, USA
Structural and Civic Engineering: Forrell & Elsesser, San Francisco, CA, USA
Landscape Design: Peter Walker and Partners, Berkeley, CA, USA (2004); Blasen, San Anselmo, CA, USA (2004-2012); Richard Berridge, St Helena, CA, USA (2012-2015)


Phase I, Building Data:

Site Area: 886,656 sqft / 82,373 sqm
Gross Floor Area (GFA): 21,528 sqft / 2,000 sqm
Number of Levels: 4
Footprint: 16,792 sqft / 1,560 sqm
Gross Volume (GV): 317,833 cbft / 9,000 cbm


Phase I, Building Dimnesions (including cantilevering roof):

Length: 187 ft / 60 m
Width: 91 ft / 28 m
Height: 13 ft / 4 m


Phase II, Building Data:

Site Area: 886,663 sqft / 82,374 sqm
Gross Floor Area (GFA): 37,000 sqft / 3,437 sqm
Number of Levels: 3
Footprint: 22,001 sqft / 2,044 sqm
Length: 210 ft / 64 m
Width: 128 ft / 39 m
Height: 38 ft / 12 m
Gross Volume (GV): 392,000 cbft / 11,100 cbm


Phase II, Consulting:

Acoustics: Charles M. Salter Associates, San Francisco, CA, USA; Mei Wu Acoustics, Redwood City, CA, USA
Lighting Consultant: Artistic Lighting & Electrical, San Rafael, CA, USA
ISP Design, Miami, FL, USA
Energy Consultant: Energy Soft, Novato, CA, USA
Gastronomy Consultant: Michael Tusk, San Francisco, CA, USA
Glazing Consultant: SGH, San Francisco, CA, USA


Phase II, Contractors:

General Contractor: Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Co., San Francisco
Plumbing: Dowdle & Sons Mechanical, American Canyon
Heating and Cooling: Allied Heating and Air Conditioning, San Rafael
Electrical: Decker Electric, San Francisco
Architectural Metals: A. Zahner, Kansas City
Casework Contractor: Burnett & Sons, Sacramento
Circular Stairs: Kreysler & Associates, American Canyon
Concrete Topping Slabs: Bay Area Concrete, Livermore
Glazing Contractor: O’Reilly & Faina Glass Co., San Francisco
Architectural Concrete: Concreteworks Studio, Oakland
Architectural Woodwork: Burnett & Sons Planning Mill & Lumber Co., Inc. Sacramento
Wood Glazed Doors: Quantum Inc., Everett
Barn Doors, Custom Stainless Steel: DeVincenzi Architectural Products, Burlingame
Audiovisual: Audiovisions, San Rafael
Structural Steel & Miscellaneous:
Ogletree’s Inc., St. Helena


Phase II, Use / Function:

Houses and Residential
Glazed pavilion on top of the landscape rooted down to concrete gallery box below.
Gallery spaces submerged beneath landscape.
Three excavated courts allow light, view and passage into gallery spaces.



Nicolas Olsberg, Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron: The Work in Progress.
In: Nicholas Olsberg (Ed.). The Kramlich Residence and Collection. Berlin, Hatje Cantz, 2019. pp. 55-121.

Intersections: A Conversation. Aebhric Coleman, Pamela & Richard Kramlich, Pierre de Meuron, Jacques Herzog, Nicholas Olsberg and Nicholas Serota.
In: Nicholas Olsberg (Ed.). The Kramlich Residence and Collection. Berlin, Hatje Cantz, 2019. pp. 47-53.

Gerhard Mack, Herzog & de Meuron: Herzog & de Meuron 1997-2001. Das Gesamtwerk. Band 4.
Edited by: Gerhard Mack. Basel / Boston / Berlin, Birkhäuser, 2008. Vol. No. 4.

Gerhard Mack, Herzog & de Meuron: Herzog & de Meuron 1997-2001. The Complete Works. Volume 4.

Edited by: Gerhard Mack. Basel / Boston / Berlin, Birkhäuser, 2008. Vol. No. 4.

Nobuyuki Yoshida (Ed.): Architecture and Urbanism. Herzog & de Meuron 1978-2002.

Tokyo, A+U Publishing Co., Ltd., 02.2002.

Herzog & de Meuron. Natural History.
Edited by: Philip Ursprung. Exh. Cat. Herzog & de Meuron. Archaeology of the Mind. Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal. 23 October 2002 - 6 April 2003. 2nd ed. Baden, Lars Müller, 2005.

Herzog & de Meuron. Naturgeschichte.
Edited by: Philip Ursprung. Exh. Cat. Herzog & de Meuron. Archaeology of the Mind. Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal. 23 October 2002 - 6 April 2003. 2nd ed. Baden, Lars Müller, 2005.

Herzog & de Meuron. Histoire Naturelle.
Edited by: Philip Ursprung. Exh. Cat. Herzog & de Meuron. Archaeology of the Mind. Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal. 23 October 2002 - 6 April 2003. Baden, Lars Müller, 2002.

Fernando Márquez Cecilia, Richard Levene (Eds.): El Croquis. Herzog & de Meuron 1998-2002. La Naturaleza del Artificio. The Nature of Artifice.
Vol. No. 109/110, Madrid, El Croquis, 2002.

Sibylle Omlin: Überlagerung von öffentlich und privat. Die Kramlich Residenz und Media Sammlung von Herzog & de Meuron in Oakville, Napa Valley.
In: Alex Aepli (Ed.). Werk, Bauen + Wohnen. Besondere Museen. Vol. No. 11, Zurich, Werk AG, 11.2001. pp. 40-45.

Jacques Herzog, Sabine Kraft, Christian Kühn: Mit allen Sinnen spüren. Jacques Herzog im Gespräch mit Sabine Kraft und Christian Kühn.
In: Sabine Kraft, Nikolaus Kuhnert, Günther Uhlig (Eds.). Archplus. Zeitschrift für Architektur und Städtebau. Architektur natürlich. Vol. No. 142, Aachen, ARCH+ Verlag GmbH, 07.1998. pp. 32-39.