South Federal Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
2009 Metal Architecture; Design of Excellence in Natural Metal
2010 Metal Construction Association; President's Awards for Innovative Building Projects
2010 ARCHIZINC Trophee; Grand Prix du Jury
This project is a single-family home designed for a couple and set in a postwar subdivision of west Los Angeles just a few blocks away from a popular retail / commercial strip of Sawtelle Blvd. The neighborhood is composed mostly of the original single level cottage typology. As it is with many residential neighborhoods in the basin of Los Angeles this neighborhood enclave is buffered through a built up of higher density mixed used developments along its peripheral major boulevards and streets establishing the distinctive linear urban boundaries framing the inner sanctum of the urban fabric that personifies the “patchwork urbanism” that is Los Angeles.
The project site is a typical infill lot but with a unique neighbor bordering the south and east side of the property – a third generation family owned nursery popular with the landscape professionals and the public alike. Whereas the typical planning approach for residential infill lots is to emphasize the street exposure while maximizing privacy concerns on the three enclosed sides of the property, the nursery program provided the project with a very interesting opportunity to explore outwardly exposure on three sides of the lot through a vertical organizational strategy.
The owners’ lifestyle revolves around art. Aside from being art collectors, the husband is an artist and the wife is a gallery owner. The project took on an aggressive set of programs aimed at integrating domestic programs with studio space for work and extensive art display requirements. In addition, the project needed to include a fully integrated apartment for the wife’s elderly mother and a flexible private outdoor space for the husband’s work and entertaining.
Typical of the narrow and deep urban subdivision infill residential sites, the restrictive front to back lot configuration demanded that the art studio, the garage and the apartment programs be located with ease of access from the street. As such, the placement of the main domestic programs defaulted deeper into the lot. The front to back juxtaposition of utility and domestic programs paired with the need to share the site with the private outdoor space for work and entertainment requirement yielded the consideration to mediate the two program blocks with a shared courtyard space thereby establishing the site planning strategy for the project.
The juxtaposing volumes are conceived as pure container with their respective program requirements as objects of containment. The insertion and placement of the programs within the containers served as catalysts for creating strategic (anticipation of adjacent lot developments) but non-hierarchical spatial articulations. If the program elements simply created spatial articulations, the circulation elements came to be viewed as the formal agitators for the project. Conceptualized as linear ribbon fully capable of being subjected to operational folds and bends, they were expressed as interventions disrupting the pure volumes as cuts, projections and penetrations. The circulation pattern progressively moves the users horizontally and vertically from an introverted site experience at the entry to an extroverted urban experience once above the first floor. In addition to serving as the circulation pattern for the house, the movement sequence is also a continuous linear art display space simultaneously mediating between art viewing and choreographed outwardly micro (site) to macro (urban) views.
The two structures are clad in a custom-patterned zinc rain screen and detailed as simple wrappers. The material personifies the structures with a smooth monolithic quality serving as high contrast with the striated pattern of the neighborhood. The cladding is mounted on rails relieving the entire cladding system from the structural walls creating a breathable layer of air space that prevents heat transfer from the outside to the inside. The imprints of the circulation / art display form are identified through the use of structural glazing framed with Ipe wood. The Zinc cladding’s combination of differing size panels interact delicately with the sunlight offering smooth and shadowed variations of the pattern throughout the day. To protect the artwork, high performance glass was used to virtually eliminate the penetration of harmful UV light. The project takes advantage of the on-shore flow of prevailing winds and cross ventilation for cooling and hydronic radiant system for heating.