When the architects who designed California's greatest steel-framed houses talk about the material, they focus on its functionality, strength, indestructibility, and its ability to span great distances. But don't let that fool you.
All you need do is visit a house that glories in its steel construction to realize that steel is more than something industrial. It has magic. A well-designed steel house shows off its structure -- but the effect is more spiritual than industrial, because the steel is so thin the house appears to levitate.
And few homes are as open and light as a home of steel, thanks to broad spans and unbroken spaces, walls of glass shaded by broad overhangs, and, often, clerestory windows that bring in light from above.
The house comes across not as industrial, but as elegant, even spiritual.
There's also an aura about steel that suggests a better tomorrow, a world in which house production has become rational, sophisticated, environmentally conscious.
No wonder steel appeals. "Steel is not something you can take up and put down," architect Pierre Koenig once said. "It is a way of life."
Photos: David Glomb and Barry Sturgill