Los Angeles, CA
This project is another take on the developer LOFT challenge faced first with the initial Silver Lake development proposal. Originally assumed to require an existing warehouse or other industrial type building as starting material for a rehab or conversion (not to mention a location in the gritty part of a decaying downtown, like SoHo), the loft idea was being marketed in this area to an audience that would never live in the sorts of areas where such building stock was available. Savvy developers were building new structures out in the suburbs that marginally recalled the lines of the originals with a pastiche of EIFS details that elsewhere might signify Mediterranean or “contemporary.” These new “lofts” of course completely missed the point of the originals, since they really were a stripped down version of the typical type III/IV townhouse with a larger, less defined living area, but no fewer room divisions nor sturdier materials. But they were selling well. In Redondo the audience was typical: discriminating young professionals who were being dispossessed of digs on the real Westside (Santa Monica, Venice, Pacific Palisades) by rising land values and moving south of the airport in increasing numbers over the previous several years. For such a target audience, J,P:A felt compelled to offer the present project as a critique of the developer loft model proliferating through the suburbs or, rather, as exemplary of the possibilities of the type, now unchained from any relationship to existing construction by that proliferation.
In terms of spatial organization, this project represents an intermediate state in the progression from the typical suburban house, with its multitude of individual rooms, to a pure loft-type spatial organization, in which all the activities of the household are conducted in a single large room. There are functional advantages and lifestyle implications to each, which this scheme deploys to its benefit. The privacy gradient of the multi-room model is preserved in this scheme’s multi-platform organization, for example, while the openness and flexibility of the loft model is assured through the use of sliding panels, rather than fixed partitions.
Within the space captured between two major exterior walls running the length of the buildable area of the lot are a series of upper-level platforms spanning from wall to wall. These platforms hold the bedrooms and bathrooms, and define, as ceilings, the programmed living spaces below. As they reach across these living spaces the platforms divide the continuity of the house into alternating bands of varied spatial affect—“secure” spaces with low ceilings alternating with “expansive” spaces in the intervening vertically-proportioned areas. The spatial definition is further reinforced by systems of sliding panels running transversely, along the sides of the platforms, which permit enclosure as required or complete openness if desired, and by program pods interspersed among these spaces, which house the activity-specific support elements of the house, like the bathrooms and kitchen.
The platforms seem to hold the exterior walls apart, as if responding to the pressures of the neighborhood to conform. These pressures are not inconsiderable, given the Design Guidelines of the Architectural Design Review Board, which aggressively promote a developer-Mediterranean formalism for all new construction. This project will avoid that fate by hiding behind a screen of landscaping. The longitudinal exterior walls are configured to support a mantle of greenery, with an overlapping grid of horizontal ribs and vertical stanchions to support a future carpet of blooming vines. Meanwhile, until the vines grow in, the highly articulated surfaces will revel in their machinic anti-Mediterraneanism.
Location: Redondo Beach, CA, US