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The project became an experiment to test the available prefab technologies to see how far it could be pushed to achieve a more exciting design while retaining its ecological and economic benefits. ‘The promise of Prefab was to offer a sustainable approach to housing at a modest price. Working with steel prefabricator Ecosteel, we deployed a three-axis, equilateral grid to accommodate a 1,100 square-foot one-bedroom unit below and a 600 square-foot studio above for this kit-of-parts duplex. Modest moves – like rotating the plan twelve degrees and by using pop-outs where it made sense – increased the livability of the spaces while establishing axes that opened up a multiplicity of views unavailable otherwise.
For the construction we took common, everyday materials and methods and pushed them, first by imposing the hexagonal order upon the typically rectilinear technologies of board-formed concrete and red steel, which then prompted the modification of virtually every other element – from the plumbing and mechanical systems, to the built-in cabinetry, to the off-the shelf steel stairs – standard systems all adapting to the rigors of the 60-degree geometry’. For the client, the experiment turned out to be a huge success. But it also suggests an alternative future for Prefab: less as a consumer product to be plopped down anywhere for anyone, and more as a kit-of-parts system as adaptable to the site and to the user as the imagination allows’.After earning architecture degrees from UC Berkeley and Yale, Tom Marble went on to design for the firms SOM and Morphosis, Rios Associates and The Irvine Company. He started his own firm, Marbletecture in 2001. Since then he has completed dozens of projects ranging from furniture design to public art, assisting his partner, Pae White, with a series of large-scale commissions. He has also been committed to research, probing the often antagonistic relationship of people to place, first through ‘Twelve Minutes with Frank & Dolores’ a short film he presented at the 1989 Monterey Design Conference, then in articles for trade journals, and later in book form with After the city this (is how we live) published by the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design in 2008. Tom is currently working on The Expediter, an architectural film noir exploring the role of real estate development in the formation of contemporary Los Angeles. He has taught at USC, Cal Poly Pomona, and SCI-Arc and has been a visiting critic at those schools as well as UCLA and Woodbury. He taught a community-based urban studio, Urban Successionism in Colorado Springs, at Colorado College in the Spring of 2012 and is currently teaching a class, Scripted Spaces, with Norman Klein at Woodbury. He is currently the Vice-Chair of the Debs Park Advisory Board in Northeast Los Angeles and is a former President of the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council. He served on the board of the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design from 2002-07.
Designed by award-winning architects Lee + Mundwiler, the house features an open floor plan, natural wood floors, imported stone, polished concrete floors and walls, and finishes of the highest quality. The Santa Monica-based architectural firm with principal architects, Stephen Mundwiler and Cara Lee have won many awards, including an AIA National Honor Award and AIA California Merit Award for the design of the Central Park of the New Radiant City in Shenzan, China; an AIA National Housing Award for the design of the �Coconut House� in Los Angeles; and an AIA National Honor Award and AIA California Merit Award for the design of the Bundesplatz-Swiss Government Plaza in Bern Switzerland. The house was most recently listed for sale for $1,195,000. Located at 2955 Swan Place in Silver Lake.
Driving by this elegant modernist home on my way to visit a friend on nearby Dillon Street, I first thought I had stumbled upon a heretofore-undiscovered Rudolph Schindler original. The architect, as it turns out, relates to Schindler in a fascinating way. After earning a B.F.A. degree in Sculpture from Pomona College, Robert Nicolais received his Master’s Degree at the Yale School of Architecture. Arriving back in Los Angeles in 1978, he volunteered at Schindler’s King’s Road House, where the master architect established his reputation as one of the leading modernist architects. Applying his knowledge of sculpture to furniture and working from old photographs, Nicolais created outstanding reproductions of Schindler’s furniture designs for the Kings Road House. Nicolais makes and sells furniture of his own design in addition to his Schindler reproductions to clients across the U.S. and in Europe.
When Steve Robinson decided to build his home on a steep downslope lot in Silver Lake, he turned to his partner, Robert, for the design. Nearly every room in the house takes advantage of the dramatic Downtown L.A. views. The home is strongly reminiscent of Schindler’s work and employs some of his practical ideas as well. The orientation of the south facing windows and the dramatic overhang of the roof provide shade during the hot summer months and sun during the winter. Convective venting allows hot air to escape from the top-level electric windows while drawing in cooler air from the lower levels. A passive solar thermal mass system allows a phase-change salt formula to melt and freeze at 81 degrees, as a way of soaking up energy from the sun. A recently added active solar hot water system in another of the many ‘green’ features. The light filled home includes many examples of Nicolais’ furniture and paintings. The landscaping is mostly natives, requiring minimal water.
The Steven H. Robinson Residence is located at 1700 Rotary Drive
The Shields House was designed by Venice-based architect Glen Bell, DEX Studio for John Shields, a landscape architect and concept site planner for theme parks, and his artist/illustrator partner, Nat Reed, re-imagining a single story stucco box on Redcliff Street in Silver Lake. The restyling involved reorienting the first floor, adding a second floor, and altering the facade to bring in more natural light and highlight the home�s panoramic views.. Hand-crafted screens on the exterior provide texture while visually tying the main house with a separate studio. The pattern continues throughout the home with suspended acrylic orange-colored panels suspended from the ceiling, enclosing the stairway and at the same time creating a fantastic prism of color in the interior spaces. The collaboration between the principals (landscape architect and artist) and the architect is evident everywhere, from the rectilinear pattern rug in the downstairs bedroom to the design of the exterior spaces. A tiered system of poured concrete steps and planters, enhanced by native and drought-tolerant plantings progressively reveals the connection between the architecture and gardens reducing water usage, while the terraces allow rainwater to seep into the soil rather than run off to the street.
The hilltop home was one of six homes featured on the 2011 Dwell on Design home tour. Shields studied landscape architecture at the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Located at 1855 Redcliff Street in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Built on a steep hillside in Silver Lake’s architecturally-significant Silver Ridge Avenue, the multilevel Sharlin House represents a significant departure from the architect’s typical single story home. Projecting trellises, shown here, contribute handsomely to the building’s overall design.Gregory Ain designed the house for the Sharlin family. Rose Scharlin was the moving force behind the very first cooperative nursery school in the City of Los Angeles c.1939, and the model upon which local schools patterned themselves. Beginning as the Echo Park Cooperative Nursery School, using the facilities of the Echo Park Playground, a number of its members decided to start a similar school for the Silver Lake area and broke away from the original group, taking with them as the new school�s director Mrs. Rose Scharlin in 1946. The new school began as the Lakeview Cooperative Nursery School at the present school site, which was then an abandoned tennis court. Rose Scharlin fostered the concept of parents and children growing and learning together within the group. When Rose Scharlin died in 1948, the name of the school was changed in her memory. In 1955 it merged with the old Echo Park School to become one again.Located at 2363 Silver Ridge Avenue in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Silver Ridge Avenue has some of the most storied monuments to Modernist architecture to be found in the world, including works by Harwell Hamilton Harris, Rudolph Schindler, J.R. Davidson and Allyn E. Morris. Visiting there recently, I was struck by a number of exciting new architectural projects being infilled in a few of the steep, remaining hillside lots, and some interesting remodels.
A real eye-catcher is this stunning architectural statement at 2358 Silver Ridge. Designed by Sean Briski, Principal of the architectural firm ChromaAD, Briski has created something very special as the accompanying photos will attest.
The exterior of the house is a series of experiments in wall construction that have been organized into a composition. The screen wall at the stair is made up of tire ‘alligators’ sandwiched between panels of glass. The light-transmitting wall panel in the living room is made with packing peanuts laid between twin wall lexan.
The interior of the house is a voluminous open space, organized around a two story living room. A series of three basketball backboards are used as a guardrail and are the focus of the living room. Just as the television replaced the fireplace as the main focal point of earlier homes, this house seeks to make basketball the focal point. A large operable window opens to the outside; exposed steel and concrete connect the interior to the exterior.
Sean Briski is a principal of the firm ChromaAD. He has degrees in architecture and art from California Institute of the Arts and the Pratt Institute. The Briski Experimental House is located at 2358 Silver Ridge Avenue.
Julius Ralph Davidson was born in Berlin, Germany in 1889. He apprenticed in architectural offices in Berlin and London, England, and Paris, France, before opening his own practice in Berlin after World War I. He immigrated to Los Angeles and found employment with prominent architect Robert D. Farquhar (1923-24) and as an assistant to Cedric Gibbons, Art Director at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (1924-1925) before opening his own practice. Among his most important achievements are included the Los Angeles Ambassador Hotel (1919-1921); Case Study House No. 1 (1947-48); Drucker Apartments (1940); Hi-Hat Restaurant (1927); Thomas Mann House (Pacific Palisades, 1941); Perino’s Restaurant (1940) and the Rabinowitz House (Bel-Air 1960).The Sabsay House is located at 2351 Silver Ridge Avenue in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.
It gave me a great sense of personal joy to discover this Paul R. Williams home, surprisingly the only one in Silver Lake created during his long and illustrious career. The home was built for Restaurateur Rene Faron and his wife in 1935. Designed in an elegant traditional style, the home is set back from the street in a semi-enclosed motor courtyard.
Known as the ‘Architect of the Stars’, Williams created over 2000 private residences during a career that spanned almost sixty years. Among his celebrity clients were Anthony Quinn, Bert Lahr, Danny Thomas, and Zsa Zsa Gabor. His most well-known commercial projects were the futuristic Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport and the United Nations Building in Paris.
Williams was one of the most highly regarded architects that defined the Southern California lifestyle for a culture obsessed with a romantic notion of Hollywood. His achievements was all the more extraordinary given that he was an African American. Through perserverance, he overcame the many obstacles that confronted him. He was the first African American to become a member of the American Institute of Architects; in 1957 he became the first black elected to the distinguished AIA College of Fellows.
The Rene Faron Residence is located at 2081 Redcliff Street in Silver Lake.
Elizabeth Bougart-Sharkov, Chair of the Silver Lake Urban Design & Preservation Committee, recently informed that this unassuming duplex located at 944 Maltman Avenue is indeed the work of a young Rudolf Shindler! ‘During the course of research and digging through history and left-intact documents, we made this tremendous discovery. It was designed and built according to his plans’, an ecstatic Ms. Bougart-Sharkov exclaimed, ‘It was a stepping stone in terms of using cast concrete as a structural and architectural element.’Elizabeth related that Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti was personally involved and appeared before the Los Angeles Cultural and Historic Commission requesting the designation of the property as a Los Angeles Cultural and Heritage Monument (No. 844) which was successful.In an email received by Schindler’s son, Mark Schindler, I learned that ‘the Purviance Duplex is the small house to the north. The owner wanted Schindler to use brick, so the architect revised the plan and sold it to him. The rear section has the same slab cast tiles that my father used on the How House.’.
The Purviance Duplex is located at 944 Maltman Avenue.
The Otero Residence is located at 1986 Lucile Avenue. It is currently listed (September 2006) for sale for just under $1M)