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Horizon House 2

Geoffrey von Oeyen Design

Malibu, California, United States

June 2023


Geoffrey von Oeyen (Design Principal)


von Oeyen Architects (Project Architect), Thornton Thomasetti (Structural Engineer), TTG Engineers (MEP Engineer), Landphases, CalWest, LC Engineering (Geology, Geotechnical, Grading Engineers), TSO, G&H Constructors (General Contractors


Emmanuel Villaume & Andrew von Oeyen


Geoffrey von Oeyen (with Karl Tso for Image 11, aerial view to south)


Robin Evans’s concept of Mies’s paradoxical symmetries informs the design, as views are mirrored horizontally across and vertically about the horizon to register the project with its natural context. Oblique ocean and sky views framed by low-e insulated multi-slide doors and large mirrors placed strategically throughout the project work to amplify these symmetries and reference the Light and Space art of Southern California. The project transitions sectionally from the typology of a traditional ranch house at the entry into a series of geometric viewing frames on the south facades. The bisected ranch house gable roof, which appears to be cantilevered, is suspended by a hidden steel roof structure supported by a visible 57-foot clear span truss that allows for spatial continuity between interior and pool deck. The sand-finished concrete floor, an abstract beach at low tide, reveals the project’s unusual saw-cut grid reconciling the existing house's orientations with the east-west pool axis.

Horizon House 2 was designed for programmatic flexibility and environmental resilience in an uncertain future of post-pandemic work from home and climate change, and includes a pool-supplied exterior fire sprinkler system and protected mechanical room that doubles as a belvedere for surveying the horizon before descending into the architectural promenade. Each architectural element serves multiple uses, and each space frames a connection to the horizon. The bedrooms separate the open living spaces from semi-private courtyards allowing for events while in residence. Varied ceiling heights in the flexible open living space facilitates varied classical music performances and live recordings.


Sited on a steep cliff on Decker Canyon in the precarious urban wildland interface of Western Malibu, California, Horizon House was designed to geometrically transform a 1960s ranch house into an optical device for framing panoramic views of the Pacific horizon. The original L-shaped house, where two wings met in closest proximity to the ocean, lacked unobstructed ocean views and indoor-outdoor community performance space for the classical musician owners. Planning restrictions limited the addition to less than 1000 square feet with less than half of the elevations altered.

The design reconciled the two wings with a third axis, uniting the two halves of the house to reframe the horizon with an infinity pool. The existing ranch house ceiling was removed and its roof bisected, reconstructed in steel, lifted, and reoriented due south toward the Pacific horizon. Mechanized skylights and operable horizontal fabric awnings modulated daylight and passive ventilation and animated the roofscape as an archipelago of extrusions against the horizon. The south facing clear-span addition allowed for the new caisson-supported infinity pool to be oriented east-west to reflect the path of the sun and moon over the ocean.

Less than ten days after the owners moved into the house, it was violently destroyed in the 2018 Woolsey Fire. In the aftermath, Horizon House 2 was built on the existing deep foundations utilizing the same structural calculations, reinterpreting the ghost-like trace of the original ranch house to reframe the horizon with improved daylighting, passive ventilation, and fire resilience.


Horizon House 2 exceeds expectations as a visual and environmental device for registering the natural world. Views, daylighting, thermal, and acoustical performance across hours and seasons is a cyclical source of delight for owners and visitors alike. It is a beloved home, a community nexus for musicians, and a desirable location for filming. While Horizon House 1 leveraged the original ranch house as site condition, the fire rebuild of the second version inverted this contextual paradigm so that the post-fire steel structure utilizes the recent foundations that were structurally tested and exempted from fire demolition. The central portion of the fire-destroyed house was thus rebuilt as virtually identical to Horizon House 1, inverting the “existing” conditions, while the ghost of the grandfathered light wood framed ranch house wings became the focus of the redesign in Horizon House 2.

Operable clerestory windows, operable skylights and solar chimneys, a new primary bath suite chamfered to create a new entry walkway, and a bento box-like skylight cluster in the guest suite have allowed the house to achieve exceptional environmental performance that far exceeds California Title 24 metrics with nearly all heating and cooling needs met through the passive solar design. Along the south-facing glass facades, the mechanically operated horizontal fabric awnings provide a light shelf as needed in summer, which in turn preserves the horizon views on even the brightest days. Horizon House 2 is increasingly utilized for its optical and acoustic qualities as an architectural space for music performances, recordings, and filming.

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