This unique, hand crafted home, located atop Twin Peaks in San Francisco, CA, was commissioned by Dr. Cloyce Duncan in 1959 and designed by acclaimed Bay Area architect Warren Callister. The house sits on the largest lot in the Twin Peaks community and boasts unobstructed views of the San Francisco Bay and city skyline.
Duncan House is sterling example of some of Callister’s best work, weaving together Northern California Modernism and historic Japanese architecture with an Arts and Crafts influence. In finishes throughout the house, Callister borrowed heavily from the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi, a concept derived from the Buddhist assertion of the three marks of existence. At Duncan House, trios of wood and glass are used to create rhythm and visual texture while groundling the occupants among soaring 28-foot ceilings.
Callister’s eclectic approach to architecture drew heavily from the artifacts of the landscape in which he worked. At Duncan House, with its tremendous views of the city and Bay, cable cars and ferry boats were the muse behind the centerpiece of the house: an immense, arched roof of unfinished redwood that took nearly two years to complete.
Built on a hillside, the position and form of the house integrate with the demands of the site. Contrasting horizontal and vertical spaces tie seamlessly through carrying ceiling heights, culminating in dramatic, light-filled spaces. This architectural device has a profound effect on the spatial experience and is designed to evoke appreciation, awe and inspiration.
A stairwell leads to the main entry below sidewalk-level, placed strategically to capture the dramatic view when the door is opened. From the foyer, a barrel-vaulted skylight adds lightness to the extensive overlay of wood trim. In the main living area, a cast concrete fireplace adds boldness and balance to the exaggerated vertical lines of two-story windows framing views of San Francisco.
Callister considered the changing spatial proportions of Duncan House to evoke two moods – ‘party’ and ‘temple’. Architecture, he said, “is not building a shelter, but a mood, a feeling, a sense.”
Forgotten Modern, California Houses 1940-1970, Alan Hess and Alan Weinstaub (Gibbs Smith, Layton, UT, 2007)
Signature Architects of the San Francisco Bay Area, Dave Weinstein (Gibbs Smith, Layton, UT, 2006)
NorcalMod, Icons of Northern California Modernism, Pierluigi Serraino, (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2006)