The exterior shape of the house transforms vertically – from rectangular at the roof to a variously curving plan at the ground. The perimeter walls are in continuous transformation between those two plan shapes. That change in shape is particularly evident at the corners which begin with a 90-degree plan at the roof and end as a 10-foot radius at the ground plane. Each corner makes the same geometric transformation, but each has its own specific resolution of the various building elements.
The A+M House is located in Santa Monica Canyon next to a canal, a block from the Pacific Ocean. Two adventurous teenagers and one adult are the residents. The footprint of the site is only 10 meters wide and 16 meters deep. The canal at the rear of the site is defined by a retaining wall that cannot accept any addtional loads from new construction. This resulted in a cantelievered foundation design that supports the rear 10 feet of the house.
Given the close proximity to the ocean, the design strategy leaned heavily on utilizing passive systems to maximize natural daylight and ventilation. The shape of the building is taylored to maximize natural daylighting on the site and to optimize airflow around the site. Operable windows are oriented to capture ocean breeze and the largest areas of glazing are oriented to the east to minimize heat gain. A central atrium draws in cool ocean breezes and operable skylights and roof deck door draws warm air upward and out of the building. Stormwater is collected in a rain garden at the rear of the site, and the largely shaded area creates a microclimate along the LA County drainage channel.
The perimeter walls are in continuous transformation between rectalinear and curvalinear shapes. That change in shape is particularly evident at the corners which begin with a 90-degree plan at the roof and end as a 10-foot radius at the ground plane. The compound-curving exterior walls are produced by CNC milling all the exterior studs of the house. The milled lumber was fabricated through a direct-to-construction Rhino 3d model. It was essential that the exterior walls, roofs, and soffits precisely preserve the milled shape. An industrial coating called polyurea was applied – a single-component covering that provided both waterproofing and exterior finish, the first time this rubberized coating has been used on an exterior over wood construction. The four-story house is organized around a central atrium crossed by a bridge at each level and including a stair to all floors and the roof deck which looks over the sea. A theatre, symposium area, and multiple bedrooms and bathrooms surround the stair and bridges. Two parking spaces are covered by curving, bowl-shaped soffits that form the rubberized exterior of the sloping interior theatre seating one level above.
You think you know. And then you don’t. You suddenly recognize. And then you won’t. Here a rule? There not so. Square in the sky. Absent below. Roof’s rectangular. Basement not so. Perhaps symmetrical. Dissolves, but slow. Walls incline, Not all we’ve got. Asymmetrical. Then it’s not, From the canal on the north, To the end of the lot. Window’s a piece. Windows in pieces. Made out of rubber, Including the creases. The sea to the west, Sails all around, A building of options. Tension abounds.
Eric Owen Moss Architects was founded in 1973. The Culver City-based office has completed projects in the United States and around the world. There are 22 published monographs on the work of the office, including The New City – I’ll See It When I Believe It and the upcoming Ismael’s Los Angeles by Rizzoli, and Eric Owen Moss – Construction Manual, Nanjing Charter, and the upcoming Vespertine by AADCU. Moss and EOMA have garnered over 150 local, national, and international design awards including the Academy Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; AIA|LA Gold Medal; Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize; Jencks Award by the Royal Institute of British Architects; National Academy induction; Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and Art; Beidou Master Award in Ordos, China; and the Arpafil Award in Guadalajara, Mexico.