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Monday, April 9, 2012

Hillside Banter


By Pari Syal
Photography:Steve King; Courtesy XTEN Architecture


The lure of a home in the lap of nature, with lush surrounds and the birds and bees for company is an aspiration that some merely dream about, whilst others opportunely enjoy...

We have seen quite a few homes built on steep hillsides, opening out to the elements, freeing the spirit and breathing in sheer beauty. Yet, every other such home brings with it something new to the drawing board.

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Award-winning Xten Architecture firm based in Los Angeles, California emphasises on strategic planning, open spatial configurations, refined material detailing and the highest level of craftsmanship, distilling the parameters of site, structure, project brief and resources into strong sculptural forms in tandem with the scale of the landscape. Their Nakahouse, an abstract remodel of a 1960's hillside home located on a west facing ridge in Hollywood Hills, just below the Hollywood sign is one such example.

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With a breathtaking view of the Beechwood Canyon to the west and south, a protected natural ravine to the east and a view of Griffith Park Observatory in the distance; with several neighbouring dwellings visible, yet far away, the home appears as if enjoying  some precious private moments amidst the milieu.

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While the existing structure did have its fair share of interconnected spaces, the architectural vocabulary has been sharpened in the refurbished version by opening up the home to its surroundings. Maintaining the foundation and the existing building footprint – albeit mainly due to geotechnical, zoning and budget constraints - the interiors are totally reconfigured with terrace spaces added on to the kitchen/ dining area cum living room and the bedrooms. The addition of a steel staircase leading up to a rooftop sundeck further augments the metaphor of free spirit.

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With sheer sliding glass panels (designed to disappear into the adjacent walls) lining these extensions from floor-to-ceiling, the house opens up, into a dialogue with its surrounds, at will. Instead of lying hidden amidst the lushness around, it stands boldly in the open, celebrating its abstract form with a distinct black and white demarcation that at times, lends the feel of being there now; now gone.

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While the exterior is perceived as a specific finite and irregular object in the landscape the opposite occurs inside the building.  The simplicity of its straight lines and its all-white palette rendered in white surfaces of various materials and finishes; lacquered cabinetry, epoxy resin floors and decks and painted metal, blend the rooms together, extending ones sense of space and creating a heightened, abstract atmosphere from which to experience the varied forms of the hillside landscape. In direct contrast, the exterior walls are finished in a smooth black Meoded Venetian plaster system, designed to render the building as a singular sculptural object set within the lush natural setting.
The contrast between the interior and exterior of the house is thus intentional and total.

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47 comments :

  1. It seems as if this house was designed to solely show off the nature that surrounds it. I love it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The natural surroundings are far more interesting and welcoming than the house. White is antiseptic and is handled in such a strict manner, it does not allow for a spec of anything to survive that is not white. Black roof is perverse as it absorbs heat. The geometry is following the inhuman laws of modernism that does not allow for human interaction or expression. See how out of place books are!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was taught Foundation/location was the key essential concern in designing and erecting any structure. Understanding that all aspects bear significant regard, without a sound foundation, properly situated, all else is at risk.
    Posted by Brian Payne on Linkedin Group: Design and Construction Network in response to IAnd's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Since we have a mountain home in Red Lodge, Montana, I can answer that from a personal point of view. We get wildlife of all kinds due to our proximity to Yellowstone National Park. We want to be able to see that wildlife all around the cabin. So, I would say the most essential design element would be well insulated, strategically placed windows.
    Posted by Sandie Trowbridge on Linkedin Group: The Decoration Nation® - Connect. Build. Grow.™ in response to IAnd's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I feel that overall stalibity of the home is essenital, as well as keeping it equal to the other homes, as not to stand out like sore thumb,(a castle in a meadow,with small farm houses would look odd) uniqueness on the inside is as equally important.( ie large rooms and kitchen and bathroom design).
    Posted by Lisa Goude on Linkedin Group: Design and Construction Network in response to IAnd's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  6. In keeping with the OP's question, the single most essential design element is "location, location, & location".

    Explanation: Without the proper location even the most incredible design and most incredible designer equals failure.
    Posted by Andrew Lincicome on Linkedin Group: Design and Construction Network in response to IAnd's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I agree foundation is most important...knowledge of the land gradient is key in placement of the foundation...so Im in agreement with Mr. Lincicome.Location, Location Location....
    Posted by Lisa Goude on Linkedin Group: Design and Construction Network in response to IAnd's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  8. View and attention to security.
    Posted by R Verma on Linkedin Group: Design and Construction Network in response to IAnd's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  9. I agree, definitely strategically placed windows to not only see any wild life, but also to see a beautiful sunrise and sunset. For the city dwellers a bird feeder will bring in some beautiful birds and as far as sunrise and sunsets one will still see the beautiful colors in the sky.
    Posted by Renee Page on Linkedin Group: The Decoration Nation® - Connect. Build. Grow.™ in response to IAnd's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Exterior color. Colors need to echo the environment but still showcase the house.
    Posted by Deborah Norton on Linkedin Group: The Decoration Nation® - Connect. Build. Grow.™ in response to IAnd's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  11. While I fully agree with location and foundation being important I believe orientation of the living spaces and their sight lines constitiute a more critical design element for building in a natural setting. I've found that a glass component of at least 35% of the building envelope allows the quality of the site to permeate through to all critical areas of the structure. I love these type of projects!
    Posted by Robert Heilman on Linkedin Group: Design and Construction Network in response to IAnd's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  12. As a somewhat rare native of Sedona, Arizona, if I'm forced to choose 1 element of design as most critical to building on a "wilderness-footprint", I would have to say make it a ruse in bio-mimmicry; tantalize the eye, but 'hide' the majority with intrigue that beckons closer looks amidst otherwise undisturbed elements & intigrated terraforms.......
    Posted by Greg Bartzen on Linkedin Group: Design and Construction Network in response to IAnd's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  13. when you find a place that is so full of wonder yet you are required to place a building there think camoflage, think calder, think transparency, think star trek and imagine no input at all, just mist and magic. love the space enough to allow yourself and your client to envision no foot print at all.

    you may wish to look at some calcite crystals incorporated into the paint.

    there are at least two ways to view this. one put a christopher wren building there (no art, well some art, but certainly restful architecture) or put a high tech "vanishing" building there, or, yes, a floating disk of some sort. but, I would favor camoflage.

    no foot print, no presence, just shelter of the most natural form. there are so many sites on the internet to find "natural, formative, buildings" go there, see that.

    so often I have had a client who "loved" the place itself but did not understand that to be there changes things and that has made all the difference.
    Don't kill it by loving it!

    enjoy
    dance
    and find the next puzzle
    or wave
    I'm going for the foam

    Posted by raymond d truitt on Linkedin Group: Design and Construction Network in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  14. The view that you are going to see from the inside of the home is what the client is after. There is no such thing as a home that is one with nature, obviously it would not be there. You can disguise it with the certain obvious products, but let's face it, the only reason it is there is because of the client.
    Posted by Pat Daly on Linkedin Group: Design and Construction Network in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  15. The single most essential design element in a Residence is, in my opinion, the WALLS.
    Technically, "Walls" include wall finishes and all doors, windows in them
    Posted by Murugesan M on Linkedin Group: Indian Architects and Interior Designers in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  16. The sight lines. Give me a room (or several) with a view.
    Posted by Liquidano, Geraldine on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Nature rules......
    Posted by dennis carter

    ReplyDelete
  18. Composting loos, low impact stilt foundations, zero compression construction, protection of topsoil stripping / recreate displaced habitat on roof, reduced runoff / rainwater harvesting, winter sun warming / summer shading, vertical geothermal energy extraction, minimal offsite subsoil removal / blending of landform, keep roof line below crest, no exotic species, analysis of wildlife habitat and appropriate dispacament / replacement, permeable pave access, blah blah
    Posted by Edward Brawn on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  19. Should not be allowed. It is wilderness for a reason.
    Posted by Kerry Hogue on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  20. And, is this the only residence, or is it one of a number of residences within wilderness ? And if so, then surely the relationship of one dwelling to the other is of great significance in the scheme of things as suggested by Edward Brawn ?
    Posted by dennis carter on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  21. Makes a good photograph
    Posted by Tima Bell

    ReplyDelete
  22. A good architect, who knows what he is doing.
    Posted by Zeno Winkens on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Garry Baker
    No one should be building in the wilderness. However, there is a great amount of wild lands in California that are being developed for low density residential use. These properties typically have fantastic views and environments. The design of such dwellings need to respect the environment in which the reside and well as allowing wild life to continue to exist. (in Sonoma County i have seen 50 to 100 acre properties fenced to keep out the deer??). These areas are often high fire risk environments and need to be fire safe. Other critical issues are water, septic systems and utilities. Today's green building materials and energy generation equipment are critical for wild land construction. A designer can make any house 'pretty' but wild land building must be more robust and durable.

    ReplyDelete
  24. It blends with it's enviorment!
    Posted by Steve Jarrett on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  25. The house should be part of and enhance the environment that surround it...
    Posted by Bill Williams on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  26. Further to Zeno, Steve and Bills' comments the term wilderness is too generic, each site has it's own issues, environmental impact studies provide a process to establish which one is the most essential, the design then mitigates against their impact.....that's it the most essential design element : analysis and identification of the issue and designing an appropriate solution.
    Posted by Edward Brawn on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  27. Single most essential design element? Understand and be responsive to the specific site.
    Posted by Adam Flowers on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  28. Do not diminish beauty of the place!

    First I thought of views from inside, as some of you did, but then I reminded curiosity of some guy living in primitive clay hut: "why you need windows? Can't you just go outside?"
    Posted by Ewa Kokott on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  29. Even in the most amazing of wilderness settings (or perhaps, especially in the most amazing of wilderness settings) a great landscape design is surely a much needed element. integrating inside and out and touching lightly should be considered much more than is eveident here.
    Posted by Marc Deuschle on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  30. Respect nature!

    Big and dominant often does not blend in...
    Small is good and simple is safe
    "expressionistic" approach probably is not necessarily to blame but...
    ...architecture should be amazing thank to the context

    as Dennis said "is this the only residence, or is it one of a number of residences within wilderness"
    it makes a big of a deal
    and as Edward said "each site has it's own issues"

    big shouting solutions offend the sight most of the time

    Respect the beauty of nature !
    Posted by Dimos Moysiadis on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  31. Design an experience that lifts the spirit. It needs to address the environmental issues and be memorable for the user.
    Posted by David Moore on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  32. First and foremost a respect for the wilderness and an understanding that an architectural intervention can capture that respect while still enhancing that environment for the user.
    Posted by Renn Hartmann on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  33. The amount of light from the outside bathing the interior and reflecting off the walls and elements within the home. Alot of picture windows would be related. That is from my untrained mind as an artist first.
    Posted by Kyle Alo on Linkedin Group: Design & Art Resource in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  34. To me the very pleasant challenge is to create interior spaces that are both in harmony with and as beautiful as the natural surroundings. So, "balance" might be the single most important design element, and the house in this article just does not do it for me. All the straight lines and antiseptic whiteness are completely out of place. How can one go out and enjoy nature and not come in and smudge the whiteness? After all, dirt, dust, and organic debris are the residue of nature. This home is the assertion of human concepts of design over nature as is most modernist design. It is not a dwelling in harmony with its surroundings.
    Posted by Louis Fry on Linkedin Group: Design & Art Resource in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  35. So what I hear is you might put a stream and interior plants and artwork that is made of patterns and designs that already exist outside? I do love incorporating nature inside a structure when that environment can have access to the outside by large sliding doors that allow light to come through like japanese rice paper doors framed in wood or large glass paynes that allow the light to come in to make natural light a secondary focus to the scenery outside. Wood framed open air atriums! humm! Frank Loyd Wright had an idea like that and it became popular.Modern is great and GREEN!
    Posted by Kyle Alo on Linkedin Group: Design & Art Resource in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  36. In the West it's defensible space.. lofty design ideas either aside or incorporated, you need 30' of open space which establishes basic parameters of how the image of your home will appear in contrast to the environs.
    Posted by David Zink-Brody on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  37. I strongly believe that a home has to offer security and in the case of the wilderness. I believe that a home has to offer saftey a security in times of wildfire/ bushfire/ firestorms. This could be achieved wiht a safe room, or better still fire proof construction. There should also be an ability to fight the fire and protect the property.
    Posted by Glen Wiffen on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  38. Wilderness is the hero here, and hence as most of the people above has said- context is the most important aspect. When a house sits complement to the context it sits in harmony.
    Posted by Fathmath Evan on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  39. It is called the wilderness for a reason (because no one is living there).
    If it has to be there for some ungodly reason that can't be justyfied then it should blend in such a way that it can't be distinguished from the environment; just like in the animated movie "The Hobit" totaly indistinguishable from the surounding environment. But Kerry is right it should no be there!
    Posted by Carlo Priska, D.Arch., AIA on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  40. Lots of light while maintaining the natural landscape.of your surroundings.
    Posted by Sj Johnson on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  41. Natural light. Man was not meant to live in caves.
    Posted by Christopher Ganiere, NCARB, LEED AP, KF6WEN on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  42. the design blending with the site such that it brings maximum of outside to the inside.
    Like light, greenery, views, the local materials available, colours, air, fragrance and ofcourse the natural environment.
    Posted by Nithya sethumadhavan on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  43. Rick Dargavel There is urban edgeland wilderness too. Its a bit more scary than the rural or desert idyll - sites of ecological evolution as well as of transgression.
    Posted by Richard Dargavel on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  44. It must blend in and complement the environment.
    Posted by Cynthia Beers on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  45. First off, energy conservation and independence as the core of the inner design. The aesthetics should complement the natural surroundings, not by imitation, but by respect for natural beauty and at the same time give a firm feeling of shelter from the elements.
    Posted by Robert Pomeroy on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete
  46. As with any project, no matter where it is situated, surely our client is the single most important element?
    Our professionalism takes care of the environmentally related issues listed already.
    Posted by Tymen Tolsma on Linkedin Group: Death By Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread:
    What do you think is the one single most essential design element in a residence amidst the wilderness?

    ReplyDelete