The site is spectacular, a steep north-facing hillside with unobstructed views of the mountains beyond and a 180-degree panorama from the Hollywood sign in the east to the Burbank airport in the west. Building on this site, long considered unbuildable, presented two challenges: first, to minimize the impact of the house on the landscape and second, to create sufficient flat area to be comfortable for outdoor activities.
The solution bifurcates the building, each half with its distinct tectonic and programmatic function. The lower floor is carved into the hill and with its expanse of green roof, it creates a strong ground-plane, or bench, in the steeply sloping land. Bedrooms, bathrooms, storage, media room and other family and utility spaces are arrayed along the hillside. This section, though large, is meant to be essentially invisible.
This invisibility contrasts with the strong sculptural form that the house presents to the viewer. A glass- sided pavilion creates a loft-like space for the communal activities of living, cooking, dining, entertaining, and so on. Everything here is configured to maintain the simplicity and openness of the space. Kitchen and spatial divisions never touch the ceiling so that it seems to float above on independent steel supports. Three solid wood-faced “boxes” (the only interruption in the glass) contain “messy” program elements, including closets, fireplace, TV screen, pantry, kitchen office, and powder room, maintaining the integrity of the large space.
Like a vast parasol, the roof of the house is a rectangle with upturned edges that extend well beyond the footprint of the rectangular pavilion. The roof is twisted in relation to the glass rectangle, making it seem to float and creating shade in and outside the house. Depending on the time of day or season of the year, at one corner or another, there is always either shade or sunlight to be found.
The house takes full advantage of its hillside location and meets California’s exacting energy requirements. Over half the house is buried into the hillside to passively cool and heat the house. Large glass sliders on the upper level open on all sides for cross ventilation, such that the house rarely requires mechanical air conditioning even at the height of summer. Solar panels hidden on the upturned roof produce more electricity than the house uses and a large cistern captures rainwater for landscape irrigation. Borrowed light also fills the heart of the lower level through the open stair leading down to the family media lounge and through ground skylights at the end of the primary suite corridor and bath.
California House | Project Details
Austin Anderson; Ross Galloway; Peter Gluck; Matthew Harmon; Narin Hagopian; Gonzalo Moran
Civil & Structural Engineer: Peck
Geotechnical Engineer: Schick Geotechnical
Mechanical Engineer: IBC Engineering Services, Inc.; CES Engineering
Lighting Design: Lux Populi
Interior Design: Insight Environmental Design
Landscape Design: Hoerr Schaudt
Expeditor: Kimberlina Whetted and Associates