Three Houses in Southern California | The Plan
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Three Houses in Southern California

Barton Myers

Barton Myers flew supersonic fighters for the US Air Force before launching his practice, but, as an architect, his feet are firmly on the ground. His first mentor was Louis Kahn, and his respect for the classic tradition is demonstrated in a succession of award-winning theaters that were inspired by the opera houses of Italy. The horseshoe plan is given a fresh spin and movable sections allow it to be reconfigured to serve different needs. That fusion of past and present enriches the varied output of a modernist who shares the pioneers’ dream of rational building and of designs that can be easily replicated. Over the past decade, Myers has explored those ideals in a series of steel houses: a concept he first employed in 1970 while practicing in Toronto. Myers insists that every house he designs be prototypical, spatially interesting, and express the spirit of the era in which it is built. All three conditions are plainly evident in the live-work space he built for himself and his wife, Victoria, at the head of a canyon in Montecito, about 130 km north-west of Los Angeles. As the name suggests, the wooded hills and benign climate evoke the Italian Riviera. The prevailing style of building is “Mediterranean” - pale-toned stucco and red roof tiles. The Myers had been living in such a house in the Hollywood Hills, and wanted to make a fresh start. To conserve the beauty of the landscape and save its trees, Myers decided to put his studio near the top of the steep slope, a guesthouse and garage below, and the main house on a level pad between. Each looks out to the distant blur of the ocean and at night to illuminated oil rigs glittering like fireflies in the Santa Barbara Channel. Inspiration came from many sources. “I began thinking about early Wright houses, Schindler’s studio-house in West Hollywood, the Barcelona Pavilion of Mies van der Rohe - simple arrangements of walls enclosing living spaces and gardens,” Myers recalls. That was one source of ideas; another...

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