- Issue: Roof at the end of its useful life; insulation nominal. Skylight leaking; bottom edge too close to the roof surface. Water pouring down steel facade during heavy storms, threatening the integrity of the steel frame and interior collections. Storm water pooling on the path above the house.
- Constraints: Improve functionality of the roof and skylight without notably altering its original appearance. Keep original downspouts and minimize gutters. Reduce pooling.
- Resolution: Remove roof layers down to the original Truscon steel decking layer–the layer you see as the structures’ ceiling, improve insulation, add a perimeter curb stepped back from the roof edge, direct rainwater into two new gutters and downspouts.
November – December 2014
Originally we intended to replace the flat roof with an identically designed one. However, conservation work on the steel structure revealed that water pouring over the roof edge and down all facades of the steel structure was causing damage.
It was clear that we needed to prevent water from running down the facades of the buildings. After a number of iterations, we brought in consultant Veronica Martin of Wiss, Janney, Elstner and evolved the current design. Basically, a perimeter curb, stepped back from the roof edge, corals rainwater and directs it into two new gutters. Other than the visible gutters on the rear service side facing the hill, the structures appear unchanged. The work is fully reversible: the roof surface is slightly raised, and the gutter is laid over the steel frame, not cut into it.
After removing rust and repairing the skylight, it was set in a raised frame to step water intrusion. The hard rain and wind in December 2014 tested the viability of the new studio roof design. (The residence work was then in process, needing protection by a mansard roof – a fascinating comparison to its flat roof design.)
Even during the peak of the storm, water was directed as intended: away from the facades and into the gutters. Not only was water prevented from sheeting down the sides from the roof, but the usual flooding behind the house was reduced, minimizing the risk of water permeating the ground behind the retaining wall. The success of the new roof design will assist in the conservation of the steel facades. Our hope is that with steady maintenance, we will avoid the need for an aggressive and costly future intervention. The new design will even enable us to collect water for the landscape and store it in a future cistern, a goal reflective of the Eameses’ green approach to the environment.
With the roof work completed at the end of December 2014, the curtains were reinstalled. This was a signal moment, as the curtains had not been in the House since the contents were removed at the start of Phase 1 in 2011. Their reinstallation will help reduce the negative impact of light on the contents.
We were able to finish off the layers of water barriers and insulation with a hot-mopped asphalt topped with gravel, keeping the look of the original. Due to the hazards of working with hot asphalt and open flames in drought-prone California, we are aware that we may need to adapt in the future. It will simply be a continuation of applying the Eameses’ approach to projects: to explore the use of new materials as we apply the iterative process to create the best solution possible for meeting our many needs.