Los Angeles, CA
Formerly a martial arts studio in a seventies disco box with a stepped grid of small square windows (garage and administration spaces below an open two-story workout area) this 2,500 square foot building was leveled down to the retaining walls to provide a residence for a jazz drummer and his son. The existing floor separating the workout area from the garage level was also removed, creating a three-story living space in one half of the resulting volume, and a stacked tier of private spaces in the other half, above the new garage. A new steel structural system holds these smaller spaces up and the retaining walls apart. Display shelving for an extensive drum collection, accessed by a bicycle operated traveling bridge, fills the upper reaches of the three-story volume. The guardrails of this traveling bridge can be deployed horizontally, allowing it to double as a performance platform. Privacy in this loft-style residence is achieved by the manipulation of multiple opaque and translucent wall panels in a sliding rail system; this same system may be used to tune the space acoustically for percussion performances.
At a time when enframing has become the rule, when existence has become completely pacified, and technology has in fact become invisible, the question arises: how can architecture take appropriate account of this? When the architect explicitly addresses technology, it is usually as a theme, with an assumed requirement for a heightened expression and lofty sentiment. The mediated apparatus of expectation turns technology into a symbol or metaphor. If the theme is critical the architecture gets sharp and pointy, wordy and “difficult,” or if it is affirmational it becomes chrome-plated and party-colored. In either case, technology is excitingly “exposed:” revealed like a dirty secret, or liberated as if harboring a hidden voluptuousness.
Yet, the response to this issue need not necessarily be one of celebration or harsh critique; instead almost the opposite attitude can be taken—we can ask what sort of vernacular would/does it inspire? The answer is not as obvious as celebration or critique, since it is not easy or expected for architecture to address a theme less than stridently. Matter-of-factness, or straightforwardness is not an attitude associated with the signature work that counts for architecture today.
The difference between using technology as a symbol, and more visibly being technology itself, as an expression arising from within technology rather than one that merely borrows technological form to illustrate some other non-technological interest, is the distinction between the work of J,P:A and others who might be considered technologically oriented. Since technology does not admit an author other than nature, the signature architect must make non-or anti-technological adjustments in order to assert authorship. By such adjustment, the author asserts control and makes the technology serve these interests rather than the program’s (the idea of program is itself a “gift” of technology).
This extensive remodel of a former aikido studio in the increasingly fashionable Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles can be seen as addressing the possibility for a vernacular account of technology in these terms. Striving neither for the flash of high (or haute) tech, nor showiness of strenuous critique, it simply turns a technical/technological/machine’s eye upon the opportunities and constraints of this particular residential program. From this modest perspective the systematic spatial re-organization can be seen as an assertion of clarity among the program elements, the proliferation of sliding panels as a offering of empowerment, the traveling crane bridge as a direct solution to the problem of access, and the general affect as an unapologetic expression of the infrastructural reality—all arising from within that technology, instead of imposed upon it from without.
Location: Los Angeles, CA, US