Real Estate Blog

Some said it was impossible to build on this land. That didn’t stop a famed architect

A traditional house with four walls could not be built on “the hole.”

The 1.8-acre property in Yosemite Lakes Park in Madera County sits below the main road and slopes down to a creek that gushes water in the springtime. The only flat part suitable for a house was next to massive boulders.

The terrain didn’t stop renowned Fresno architect Art Dyson from designing an unconventional 2,220-square-foot house with sharp angles, tons of windows and copper-lined interior walls in and around the boulders.

Yes – two big rocks are in the home that is now known as the Hawk House. One boulder had been used long ago as an Indian grinding rock, and it coincidentally ended up in the kitchen.

“We built the only way we could, built in the big boulders,” said Dyson of Arthur Dyson Architects. “We didn’t want to blast them. We just left them and incorporated them.”

The kitchen area of an Art Dyson-designed home in Yosemite Lakes Park in Madera County has incorporated an existing boulder with an Indian grinding rock as part of the decor. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

Such is the way Dyson, who apprenticed with famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, has designed homes for clients across the country over the years, winning a number of awards including some of the industry’s highest honors. He has designed homes in Madera, Sanger and Springville and is known locally for designing University High School at Fresno State and the Selma Arts Center.

“If you know the conditions, you can work with them,” Dyson said from his discreet Tower District office that’s also home to Dyson & Janzen Architects, the commercial arm of the firm. A lot of times, you get a more interesting project because you can’t do a standard plan, he said.

The original owner of the Yosemite Lakes property near Coarsegold was a fan of architecture who often attended Dyson’s lectures and could answer questions from audience members when Dyson couldn’t.

Dyson and the owner wanted to design an inexpensive home on the side of the hill that would integrate nature and take advantage of the views. They built a long, narrow house with a nook for reading or the study, an open living room and small kitchen with custom glass dining table and three outdoor seating areas, including a living room terrace.

The front room of an Art Dyson-designed home in Yosemite Lakes Park in Madera County features copper-covered walls, a Rumford fireplace to reflect heat back into the house and natural boulders incorporated into the living space. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

A Rumford fireplace, designed to push heat into the room, is the focal point of the living room. The exterior walls of the house and part of the living room ceiling are made of glass to give an endless view of the property.

The second floor master bedroom looks out onto Yosemite Lake. It has a window in the roof allowing the owner to stargaze from the bed. Dyson learned about the owner’s love of camping and stargazing from a 42-page questionnaire he gives clients.

The questions include: What was your favorite vacation spot? Where was your favorite spot as a child? What was your favorite recollection as a child? What’s your favorite movie? What are your favorite books? The answers, Dyson said, help him add special details to his designs.

The current owner is Bernie Arenz who bought the house about 13 years ago when he got tired of the smog in Fresno. He saw the listing for the Dyson house and instantly knew it had been designed by someone who had worked with Wright. Arenz, who is an education professor at Fresno State, first learned about Wright in the sixth grade when he picked up a book in the school library.

“It’s a great space to be in,” said Arenz, who is selling the house and moving north after retirement in May. Eldon Daetweiler of Fresno Modern Real Estate is listing the house for sale. “It’s hard to go to work but it’s nice to come home.”

An Art Dyson-designed home in Yosemite Lakes Park in Madera County was built into the existing landscape during the mid-1990s to take advantage of the rocky terrain and views of the surrounding hills. Previously the lot was known as “the hole” and unbuildable because of the terrain. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

Arenz rattles off a list of interesting things about the house. The boulders inside the home shed their top layers, creating a light dust on the concrete floor that has to be swept. The moss on the boulders outside the front door glow green after a rainstorm, and the best place to sit during the rain is under the glass roof in the living room where you feel like you’re under a waterfall, he said.

A small pond just outside the front of the house extends inside. A piece of glass keeps outdoor critters from swimming under the wall into the home. Arenz filled it with fish once, but raccoons would come out at night, make a big splash and eat the fish, he said.

What he loves best? It’s a great place to host parties, he said.

“I’m thankful every day I am here that it’s such an interesting place to live. There’s never a moment that this house doesn’t amaze me.”

BoNhia Lee: 559-441-6495, @bonhialee

Hawk House

Address: 29800 Yosemite Springs Parkway, Coarsegold

Price: $590,000

Built: 1996

Size: 2,220-square-foot home on 1.8 acres

Details: Two-story, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, made of corral lumber and copper interior siding, sharply angled exterior, house sits among boulders with two boulders in the house, Rumford fireplace, three outdoor sitting areas, stargazing window in master bedroom, garage, small pond.

About the series

What is it? BoNhia Lee writes about interesting houses and buildings for sale in the central San Joaquin Valley

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