Renovation and remodel of a house by case study architect Thornton Abell. Originally designed as a studio and residence for artist, Rico Lebrun in 1963, the house pinwheels around a central atrium space separating the former studio spaces from the living areas. The exaggerated proportions of the artist’s studio are now re-programmed into a new library and master suite wing of the residence.
Lebrun House, Malibu, California, by Thornton Abell,
Remodel: Bonsall Residence, by Space International
Meandering gardens and woods, sparked with daffodils, peonies and daylilies, flank the straight drive in. Up ahead near the path’s end is an aperture framed by an arbor of apple trees, capturing an elemental view of sky and water: the horizon of the Long Island Sound. As you reach closer range, you suddenly realize you have been looking not merely through foliage, but also right through the house.
More than a one-bedroom retreat for a former museum director and his wife, this is also a place of extraordinary 20th century paintings, sculptures, and glassware–much of it conveying a sense of buoyancy or levitation that echoes the pavilion’s lightness. The artwork always figures into view out, even if only peripherally. Conversely, from the gardens, this colorful indoor collection projects a presence outdoors.
In the animated interplay between landscape and art, in the shifting ambiguities between inside and out, the design achieves exceptional balance. An arcing swath of vibrant yellow sedum in the garden resonates with the golden footbridge in a Chinese screen inside; a mossy rock garden projects into the pavilion’s simple volume, while the bedroom nestles into a private apse of garden vegetation. You can look straight through the house without realizing it, but you could also mistake reflections of trees for glimpses through the pavilion. Morphing with the skies, flourishing seasonally, the dialogue evolves, nourishing the owner’s desire to live in the garden–with art.
Over the last year we’ve seen continued economic stagnancy. Many architects have been hard hit. How has your residential practice dealt with the downturn?
When the recession hit we were affected like everyone else. But starting this year work has been picking up and most of the projects we had in the pipeline are back on track. We’ve also acquired a few new residential projects on both coasts with more in the development stage. I guess we’ve been lucky. We just hope things continue to get better for everyone, not worse.
Are you seeing a turnaround?
We have seen a few hospitality projects pick back up as well as some luxury developments, which we see as a good sign of the global economy. Somehow Israel seems to have weathered the global recession quite well. We have a 37-story residential tower in the heart of Tel Aviv that is finally underway. It is right in the heart of the city and we hope it becomes a landmark and a new standard for design in Tel Aviv.
The biggest buzzword in the industry now is sustainability. How does today’s call for an ecologically sensitive architecture differ from that of the 1970s?
We were always making sustainable buildings, even in the 70s and 80s, they just weren’t calling it that back then. Not many people realize that the Getty was the first LEED Certified building, awarded after the fact. It comes back to our design philosophy. Daylight and energy consumption have informed our design for years. Today we are taking it to new levels, incorporating new technologies like double skin facades for heating and cooling buildings, self-cleaning, pollution-eating concrete and vertical light-reflecting louvers that rotate with the sun.
You design houses for some of the world’s most connected individuals. Is “environmental impact” a topic that generally comes up in your discussions with clients?
It depends on the client. Some clients want a “green” building and are willing to spend the money. We always try to suggest sustainable materials and propose sustainable ideas, but these are sometimes costly. Luckily we have a client base that tends to be very educated on these issues and often see it as a worthwhile investment.
Is the building industry ready to absorb the kind of environmentally focused change people are talking about?
Yes, they have to be. Legislation will soon require environmental codes and energy conservation. A handful of states and cities already require new public buildings to meet sustainable design benchmarks, such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED. We estimate that in the next 25 years, three quarters of US buildings will be new or substantially renovated. The cutting edge of this effort will be to design buildings that generate their own energy through new technologies and reuse rain water to lesson the depletion of natural resources.
What do you think of prefab as a building alternative?
In general, it’s an interesting concept when tight schedules are critical as it can drastically reduce construction timeframes. Some other apparent advantages include assurance of quality control and very efficient coordination efforts due to the use of programs like Revit from the beginning of design to fabrication. It can also eventually help reduce costs over traditional construction methods. In terms of sustainability, it reduces construction waste in a controlled environment. There are however still a lot of limitations and caveats mainly related to transport and guaranties. But the concept has existed for many years, and actually most curtain walls we design are prefabricated in shops and shipped to construction sites ready for installation.
As a building alternative, it could potentially lend itself to our approach, as it is becoming more customizable especially with new technologies and applications currently available and continuously evolving. It has gained more popularity recently, especially after MoMa’s Home Delivery exhibition, with more new firms and young architects exploring concepts that deal with economical and modern solutions.
Name one building type that you’ve always wanted to do but has thus far eluded you.
What was the design lesson you’ve learned since building your first house?
There is no such thing as “natural” materials.
What are the most challenging demands that a residential client has made of you?
Lastly, what current project on your boards, residential or otherwise, most excites you and why?
We have a lot of interesting projects on at the moment. I’m very excited about the apartment tower in Tel Aviv. Apparently there is a giant billboard with my face on it right now in place of the actual building. I hope they can take that down soon.
We are also building a new 30,000 SF home in Tianjin which is on a private island surrounded by an 18-hole Phil Mickelson Golf Course. It is a beautiful home. It has a tea room, a party room, a dining room that seats 60. It is quite a house.
And there is a new 10,000 SF private home in Long Island we are working on. It’s in a beautiful location, with a beach pavilion on the water, and has a lot of the curves and light in our signature work. I love doing houses. I feel it’s a bit indulgent, so then I take on a cultural or civic project to balance it out. I’ve always been a proponent of building beautiful public spaces, but creating a personal sanctuary is also satisfying.
Richard Meier has been awarded with the highest international honors in architecture including the AIA Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects (1997), Praemium Imperiale from the Japanese Government for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts (1997), a Fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1995), Deutscher Architekturpreis (1993), Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French Government (1992), Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (1989) and the Pritzker Prize for Architecture (1984). Richard Meier is celebrated for his acclaimed designs including The Getty Center and the Museum of Television & Radio in Los Angeles, California; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia; the Charles Street and Perry Street residential towers in New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona, Spain; the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome, Italy; and the Arp Museum in Rolandseck, Germany. His current projects include an 8-star hotel in China (2011), Rothschild Tower in Tel Aviv (2013), an urban master plan for Newark, NJ (2012) and a residential tower in San Francisco (2012).
Read more about Richard Meier
Renovation and remodel of the Thompson Mosley house originally designed by Buff, Straub & Hensman in 1959. While the main structure and floor plan retains its essential integrity, a new “interior core” is inserted along the central spine of the house. This new hub is accentuated by natural materials which compliment the interior connections to the outdoor spaces defined by the pinwheel plan of the residence.
Thompson Mosley House, Pasadena, California, by Buff, Straub & Hensman,
Remodel: Canon Residence, by Space International
The house occupies a hill in Montauk with a distant view of ocean, a site that the owners, a couple with two young boys, spent years to find. It is the couple’s reprieve from their home in the city, to share the outdoor lifestyle with their family and to remember their teenage years together in Montauk. The house design prompts the owners to interact with the surrounding environment, evoking experiences of camping.
Necessity is the mother of invention, so they say – and this applies to architecture as much as any other endeavour. The designer and co-owner of this house, engineer Guy Shallard of Lat Forty Five, says necessity was precisely the reason he chose to elevate the living area and suspend it like a bridge several metres above the ground. “The long, narrow site is surrounded by other properties,” Shallard says. “And although the site is parallel to the lake, the living areas needed to be elevated to maximise the views and provide privacy.”
The building is developed along the southern and western boundaries of the parcel, which together with the elements of urbanization of the site, form a kind of atrium, whose diagonal flight to a distant vision of the Sierra Calderona. Access is accompanied by the south facade to find the point of intersection. At this point of view inside the distributor is located next to the stairs and the kitchen form the backbone of the operation of housing. The southern zone where the rooms are available during the day, dematerialized their presence due to the overhead light. In the west the rooms fall to a portion of parcel with a more domestic scale, while the master bedroom overlooking the lift light reflected on water.
Rather than a collection of rooms, we think of this house as a collection of constructions, and we produced a design that seems to be made out of various different structures. Paths covered by a glass roof weave between the disconnected structures to create an interior space that feels exterior, a private space that feels public, a hall that feels like an avenue. In that space the children can run around, you can enjoy a breeze while you eat, read under the sun, and fall asleep watching the stars.
House in Buzen, Buzen, Fukuoka, Japan, by Suppose Design Office
House in Minaminachi 3 is a residence for a couple with 2 children. It is standing at a place where an old shopping street and houses are still kept. The site area of the dwelling is only 55 sqm, and it has a square form. Also, houses at the area are sitting closely next each other, so the condition is quite difficult to make the residence open to outside keeping its private. The unique design of the house is a relationship between the building and its exterior elements. There are extra walls along the site, and they fully covered the dwelling that has only 29 sqm as building area. The house is standing with angle, not parallel to the exterior walls and site. Through the gap between the walls and the inside construction, sunlight is coming down well reflecting between the two structures.
House in Minamimachi 3, Hiroshima city, Japan, by Suppose Design Office
The potential of the various spaces unfolds in a sophisticated game of indoor and outdoor areas, which are directed to a spatial sequence. Different wings of the building to which certain features are intended, are woven together to create but also specific points of their own identity and mood. The mutual position of the wings of the building reacts to the different directions of view and sunlight and various outdoor spaces that are created in interaction with the living quarters.
The spatial configuration of the villa is also a response to temporal sequences of a family life, which allows commonality but also individuality in the different stages of life or daily routine. The courtyard structure with its various wings generate both open places of community but also quieter places of retreat and contemplation in which parallel various needs can be lived. The courtyard structure allows for capturing the sun in the living area during the whole course of days, without having to sacrifice views to the lake.
Villa, St. Niklausen, Switzerland, by Niklaus Graber & Christoph Steiger Architekten