design architect: aalso architects; architect of record: HYCARCH
Los Angeles, United States
design architect: Annie Barrett; architect of record: Hye-Young Chung
GHBW, Ibarra, Hocker, Theia, aalso architects
The house is designed as a series of three nested conditions: an interior solid “cube”, within a mediating exterior shell, within an outer perimeter of landscape. This basic diagram concentrically organizes the most private to the most public programs of the home in relationship to the landscape and the city beyond. Storage is accommodated completely within the thickness of the cube and a thickened southern wall, which double-functions to minimize heat gain. Meticulous detailing responds to the client’s exacting, imaginative, and particular desires.
A distinctive central volume organizes the most intimate activities (bathing, meditation, and sleeping) within its interior and formally inflects to support more public activities (cooking, socializing, and creative production) on its exterior. While inside the house, one is either within the cube, or living between it and the visually porous envelope of the building, creating direct connections to nature and amplifying the sense of the cube as a volume within a volume (or, a home within a house). The active exterior spaces of the house support film screening, entertaining, and swimming. An outer perimeter of horticulture creates a final periphery of enclosure, with a thickening of cacti at the front providing a hazy privacy buffer from the sidewalk.
The materiality of the house begins with the oppositional qualities of the dark shou sugi ban rainscreen exterior, and the ephemeral lightness of the interior. The interior palette is composed of a range of custom textures and particularly selected products to produce a tactile, bright living space.
Centered Home is a house intricately designed for an unconventional couple in anticipation of their early retirement. The project’s ambition was to embody and facilitate the owners’ desire to approach their future -- an unknown context no longer organized by the typical expectations, routines, and schedules of work-life -- expansively, intentionally, and with curiosity.
The clients are a married couple, who are passionate lovers of design with impeccable, exacting attention to detail and whose open-minded enthusiasm for finding the most beautiful, specific, and exceptional answer for every square inch of the project yielded a home which is a personal spatial expression of its inhabitants. Some of the many program drivers of the house included: stretching, writing, experimental cooking, reading near sunlight, singing, steam-bathing, assembling puzzles, watching football, meditating, brainstorming, collaborative cooking, waking up to a rising sun, sleeping deeply through the night.
The clients approached Annie in 2017, envisioning an addition to their existing home. Instead, through an intensive, inquisitive, and joyful design process, a completely new home was conceptualized which would transform their daily practice of living in beautiful and unexpected ways. Many projects are described as a collaboration between architect and client, this stands apart. Over the course of 36 design meetings; lasting 8-10 hours long and overlapping countless meals, the design continually evolved as we challenged each other to think in new ways about each aspect of the design and what domesticity does and can offer, from its conceptual framework and organization to each carefully detailed moment.
From a social and programmatic standpoint, the clients have been joyfully using the home for a year, and we often speak to discuss how delighted they are that it so successfully exceeded their original expectations for the project. They revel in every detail, from the carefully-proportioned built-in stretching equipment, to a kick-release step below the sink for the shorter owner to use for dishwashing.
From a performance standpoint, the house is also designed to be carefully tuned to daylight, which was an essential design criteria and legible as a primary figure in both the plan and longitudinal elevation. Throughout the house, a series of customized skylights bring daylight strategically into each space, most notably in the living room, where the unexpected and rigorously attuned geometry of the skylight -- a vertically sheared rectangle -- and the corollary faceted ceiling, produces a fluctuating reading of the room that shifts radically from different positions and times of day. Skylights guiding light into the bedroom, kitchen and steam room were coordinated with the form of the cube; as were vertical openings coordinated to align specific views – such as the window located at the meditation space onto a green screen outside the house. The south wall is thickened to respond to the intense daylighting conditions of southern California and provides a majority of the storage in the home.
The clients love the shifting and unexpected ways the homes comes alive in response to and in collaboration with the changing position of the sun.