Photo © Jonas Lara

Sola-Wright Residence

Escher GuneWardena Architecture

Los Angeles, California
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This 2,400 square-foot house is located on a steeply sloped hillside property in the Glassell Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The clients are a young couple: an artist and an arts administrator who needed a three-bedroom house with an open living area and a studio space.

Design concept and solution: One of several such projects by Escher GuneWardena Architecture, the design of the house addresses the familiar situation in Los Angeles of clients being compelled to develop difficult sites—steep uphill or downhill lots considered unsuitable for building by conventional standards—in order to build a new house within a modest budget. The proposed solution seeks a balance between economic concerns, engineering requirements, and creating an architectural experience particular to the site, a hillside covered with native shrubs, trees and grasses, with views of a nature reserve in one direction, and the city in the other.

Shaped by building department requirements for parking, turnaround space, and setbacks, a massive retaining wall burrows into the hillside and cradles the house on three sides. Three stepped terraces carved out of the slope create shelves for placing the rectangular tube volumes of the house itself with open ends facing either city or park views. The retaining walls become the demarcation between the man-made interventions and the surrounding landscape.

The lowest volume contains the studio; the middle volume accommodates bedrooms and a tunnel-like library space spanning the entire length of the building. The upper-most space is for living, dining, and kitchen areas. Plywood-clad boxes, which enclose stairs, baths, and utility rooms, float within the interior space of the tubes at each level, defining individual areas for different functions. All interior surfaces of the tubes are treated in smooth white finishes to emphasize the notion of weightlessness and to accentuate their directional relationship to the outdoors.

Standard Type-V wood construction methods and readily available building components are used throughout. The entire exterior of the building (roof, walls, and soffits) is “shrink-wrapped” in an inexpensive, energy efficient, thermoplastic roofing membrane. Its high solar reflectance and thermal emissivity decreases heat flow through the building while improving air quality.

Escher GuneWardena Architecture
815 Silver Lake Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Tel: 323 665 9100
Fax: 323 665 9103

January 2012
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