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A+M House

Shape-Shifter

Eric Owen Moss

A+M House
By Michael Webb -

No need to ask for a street number: there is no missing the house Moss has designed for himself and his two children a block from the Pacific Coast Highway. A sculptural green block, studded with windows, it is taut, enigmatic and introverted. In their five decades of practice, Eric Owen Moss Architects have never failed to surprise, and this is no exception. However, the 25-person office is best known for the Constructivist exuberance of warehouse conversions adjoining their office in Culver City, an industrial district of Los Angeles that is rapidly becoming a tech hub. This 176-sq. m house – their first in 20 years – surprises by its reticence.

Moss delights in complexity – of form and thought – though he dismisses the word as overworked. He prefers to describe the house as “the tension between possibilities”. Located on a modest 9x18-m plot, it turns constraints to advantage, squeezing three light-filled floors and a tiny roof deck within the mandatory height limit of 10 m. A permeable grid of pavers unifies the site, and the house is set back from the street, its neighbors and a storm drain to the rear. The street front is carved away to either side of the entry to accommodate parking places.

To create a kinetic response to these limitations, Moss and lead architect Eric McNevin laid out the ground floor as two 6-m circles and the roof as a rectangle, so that the corners morph from square to round as they descend. Each is subtly different, and the rear wall leans out 1.5 m to add interior space to the upper stories. The irregular fenestration intersects the corners, requiring the glass to be folded in different ways. The wood frame is sprayed with yellowish green polyurea to create a waterproof skin that McNevin likens to the wet suits worn by ocean surfers. Because this thin protective skin reveals every imperfection in the structure, the frame was constructed as meticulously as a cabinet. Each...

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