US Building of the Week


8. September 2020
Photo: Adam Letch

This house on Hillside Avenue in Los Angeles is so large it comes with a 12-car garage on its lowest level. Designed by Cape Town's SAOTA, the house was inspired by a nearby mid-century modern icon that makes it all about the views, not the cars. SAOTA sent us some images and text on the project.

Project: Hillside, 2019
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Designer: SAOTA
  • Project Team: Mark Bullivant, Philip Olmesdahl, Alwyn De Vos, Eugene Olivier & Conrad Martin
Architect of Record: WOODS+DANGARAN
Project Manager: Park Lane Projects
Contractor: Fortis Development
Landscaping: Chris Sosa
Lighting Designer: Lux Populi
Interior Designer: MASS Beverly
Artwork: Creative Art Partners
Property Agents: Oppenheim Group and Bond Street Partners
Building Area: 20,000 sf
Photo: Adam Letch

SAOTA’s Hillside home in Los Angeles is located immediately above Sunset Boulevard on a promontory just one over from Pierre Koenig’s landmark Stahl House. The site is a 20,000-square-foot estate, featuring 300-degree views over the LA skyline and the city basin below. The design was conceived of more as a self-contained oasis rather than a conventional house.

Photo: Adam Letch

The Stahl House served as a key point of departure. The forms and articulation of Hillside’s roof planes, which were pushed as far forward as possible so that they could create meaningful external covered living spaces, set its architecture in dialogue with the iconic silhouette nearby and connect it to the drama of its context.

Photo: Adam Letch

The projecting eaves and soffits creating a "fifth facade" proved fortuitous in creating a sense of identity because the wraparound perimeter views necessitated the carefully controlled placement of solid walls and extensive use of glass to maximize the panoramic potential of the site. Consequently, the architecture is defined through the floating, overlapping horizontal floor and roof plates curating specific view axes rather than mass walls or external structure.

Photo: Adam Letch

The steep approach from below resulted in a dramatic entrance through a top-lit central atrium — rising via a 12-car underground garage and an indoor waterfall cascading into a courtyard, before surfacing into the center of the living level in a dramatic moment of revelation as a dead-on view of downtown LA opens up. The program is arranged around this focal view, loosely forming two wings, one oriented east-west, and the other north-south. The largely open-plan interior, in the absence of mass walls, has been articulated vertically and through volumetric changes to rationalize the layout. 

Photo: Adam Letch

References to modernist construction techniques are picked up in the articulation of the steel columns and the sensuous and tactile use of timber and limestone on the floors and wall, which is carried extensively throughout the interior and exterior detailing. Some of the identifying features such as the cutouts in the roof have been reprised in the detailing of the interior ceilings to add interest. 

Photo: Adam Letch

In keeping with SAOTA’s extensive experience in developing seamless indoor/outdoor open-plan living spaces appropriate to their base in Cape Town, South Africa, where the Mediterranean climate and topography are very similar to that in LA, they conceived of the program as a series of living rooms connected to extensive covered outdoor terraces. These outdoor spaces are in turn enclosed by a vast undulating infinity pool and lush landscaping along the perimeter, subtly screening neighboring properties — and ensuring their privacy — with climbing ficus trees. 

Photo: Adam Letch

In keeping with the principles taken from the Stahl House and the ground-breaking Los Angeles Case Study Houses, which were built between 1945 and 1966, the generous allocation of outdoor space maximizes the potential of the livable climate, reconnecting contemporary LA architecture with a somewhat lost aspect of its modernist heritage.

Photo: Adam Letch
Photo: Adam Letch
Photo: Adam Letch
Site Plan (Drawing: SAOTA)
Basement Plan (Drawing: SAOTA)
First Floor Plan (Drawing: SAOTA)
Second Floor Plan (Drawing: SAOTA)
Upper Roof Plan (Drawing: SAOTA)
Cross Section (Drawing: SAOTA)

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