Architect: Martin Fenlon Architecture
Location: Eagle Rock, California, USA
Client: Michele & Wiley Langford
Contractor: Pieter Rousseau
Constructed Area: 912 sqm
Project Year: 2006-2009
Photographs: Martin Fenlon Architecture
A dilapidated Spanish Colonial duplex sat empty and neglected on a quant hillside street in the Eagle Rock area of Los Angeles. As an anomaly with two legal units in a single family-zoned neighborhood, the down sloping property was patiently awaiting a drastic renovation by its owners who were eager to take advantage of the spectacular view. The view would be packaged and given to renters in exchange for premium rents. And because it was a rental property the budget provided was extremely small. To further add to the challenge, the City of Los Angeles only would allow a 750 s.f. addition to the cramped non-conforming structure. All of the existing framing had to remain or non-conforming rights would be lost. The new structure effectively used the existing foundation and retaining walls and digested the rest of framing into the reworked plans.
R.M. Schindler’s ‘Space Architecture’ was used as a point of departure. The space was treated as the raw material and the enclosure the medium, realized within a 4’ reference frame that accommodated standard sizes and minimized waste. On the exterior, the simple, austere plaster-skin enclosure (reminiscent of the original duplex) was shaped and shifted only as a result of spatial requirements. What is left is a continuity of large openings, deep overhangs and terminus walls which maximize the view, natural light and breeze while minimizing the southern sun, undesired sight lines and cost. To respect the neighborhood, a larger, main unit was presented to the street as a single family dwelling with a secondary unit accessed from the side one level below. Inside, the space is shaped by the interplay of high and low ceilings punctuated by dramatic skylights. The low ceilings serve the function of providing duct and vent spaces, the skylights give places for the unwanted heat to go. The southern California light is made palpable where these low and high ceilings interlock; its ethereal quality piercing through the building mass like it does to the underside of the many overpasses around Los Angeles, freeing the restless space to the sky above.