Diane Middlebrook Studios – A Stunning View for a Writer’s Retreat

The Djerassi Resident Artists Program, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, is a place where creatives can go to rejuvenate their spirit and get some serious work done. To achieve this, it starts with the architecture – the spaces must be conducive to writing. Architect Cass Calder Smith was commissioned to design lodging for the program. Called the Diane Middlebrook Studios, the project brief was left open-ended. The project consists of four new studios. The property consists of over 600 acres of rolling hills, forests and meadows high in the coastal hills of Woodside, CA. The new building extends the existing campus over a meadow approximately 100 yards from the main building, which was originally a cattle barn dating back from when the property was a working ranch. The project was conceived as a memorial to Diane Middlebrook, an accomplished writer and teacher, and late wife of program founder Carl Djerassi. Though the studios are designed to be used by artists of all disciplines, special attention was made to cater to the specific needs of writers, where quiet contemplation, free from distraction, is a welcome amenity. The building itself is actually a cluster of four separate one-room studios, grouped together under a fifth structure, a free-standing steel canopy supporting a solar panel array over the eastern ends and pedestrian pathway connecting the four studios. The siting of building takes advantage of uninterrupted views of the Pacific coast to the southwest, and the coastal ridgeline to the east. These views are captured within each studio by the strategic placement of doors and windows, where the distractions of the everyday movement of cars and people are unseen. Decor wise, each studio features a set of stylish basics – a bed, writing desk, and chair. A sliding glass door faces south and passively heats the interior, in addition to the galvanized metal roof with solar panels. Although they’re relatively simple units, this is perfect for achieving interruption-free solitude and natural beauty that so many people crave.