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Southern California Beach House

Richard Meier & Partners Architects

Southern California Beach House
By Michael Webb -

Two recently completed beach houses show how differently the same firm achieved a similar goal on the same stretch of coast. The first is a layered white cubist volume rising from a manicured lawn: a signature Richard Meier & Partners Architects work that recalls the Villa Savoye in its purist geometry. It was jointly created by Richard Meier and Michael Palladino, his West Coast design partner, as a summer home for a philanthropist-art collector. The second comprises a pair of linear blocks, entirely screened by teak slats and shutters, rising from an expanse of sand and beach grasses that emulates the original landscape. Palladino was inspired by the Southern California Coast vernacular to design this shady retreat for an entrepreneur who likes to entertain. Beyond the differences of character and materials, the two houses have a comparable spatial organization.
Each recreates in miniature the feeling of remoteness and natural beauty that Malibu enjoyed in the 1930s. Then, it was virgin territory where one could buy an inexpensive plot of land between the new Pacific Coast Highway and the shore, and build a weekend getaway, less than an hour’s drive from LA. Thousands did so, and the coastal strip was quickly transformed into a wall of ramshackle bungalows blocking public access to the beach and views of the ocean. More recently, the shore and foothills have been infected with the Mediterranean virus: a rash of retro villas obliterating the land. Beyond the blight are tawny mountains, the expanse of the ocean, and light of Aegean clarity.
Distinctive and appropriate architecture is rare in Malibu, which makes the two Richard Meier houses (and their earlier Ackerberg residence) especially noteworthy. The art collector bought a double lot to achieve a sense of openness and to set off a modestly scaled block of around 500 square meters. The program called for a lofty living room with walls for art, two similar suites (for the owners at ground level...

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