LocationBeverly Hills, United States
Principal DesignAxel Schmitzberger, Chris Lowe
TeamJessica Schmitzberger, Cooper Ballantine, Justin Tingue
Text description provided by the architects. ELL is a 5,500SF ground-up Beverly Hills Spec residence designed for Luxe List. The building is located at the crest of the Benedict Canyon hillsides, overlooking the entire serene landscape of the Beverly Hills neighborhood. The project is loosely situated within the footprint of a former, now demolished, one-story 1950s residence.
The construction and development faced multiple challenges, including a shortened design and submittal phase – two months – and a steep slope on the existing site, with the only, feasible flat portion being maximized by the original. Domaen consciously decided to expand the exterior and infinity pool into the steep slope, supported by long caissons, and to keep the existing footprint of the original building. This enabled to permit it as a remodeled residence and so overcome extreme setback and building restrictions of the local Baseline Hillside Ordinance. Despite the physical limitations of the existing footprint, the building employed an open floor plan and vertical extension for a contemporary, practical response to the increasingly difficult agenda of building in the hillsides of Los Angeles.
A design-build methodology was employed and streamlined to meet a fast moving schedule, with the dynamic design process that evolved during construction. The methodological constraints of the project led to explorations of an ‘elevational’ architecture, focusing on systemic alignments and misalignments as tools to create a dynamic, yet minimal façade. Formal elements are subtle, accentuated, and exaggerated. Planes are simultaneously thickened and destabilized through the opening of corners and separation from the ground surface.
This technique allowed maximum freedom in developing a loose plan that emphasizes zones rather than rooms, which is played out with various degrees of privacy; the building is obscured to the street-front, yet completely open to the scenic view in the West. The ground-floor opens up to the elements using the architecture as framework for views of the landscape beyond. The second floor, which features the most private areas has a discreet roof terrace, which is set into the roof surface to exercise another dialogue between privacy and openness.
The entrance is shielded by a long, heavy, elevated wing wall that not only forms part of the ground floor and sideboard enclosure but also embraces an interior courtyard with an entry pond. This allows the east facade to be completely opened up over two stories while being visually almost inaccessible from the street.
The deck and zero-edge pool cantilever over the steep hillside and are extensions of the floor plans rather than landscape elements. This enhances the continuous interplay between interior and exterior throughout the house and artificially increases the footprint.
The material vocabulary of the project is reduced to three related elements. The extensive glazing, with its reflective and transparent surfaces and thin dark glazing frames, is starkly contrasted by white stucco facades. Wooden slats serve as a textural mediator through the use of parametrically generated undulation. Inside, material contrasts continue. Expressed through sharp-edged geometries and articulated datum, juxtapositions of white stucco, grey stone, and soft, warm wood surfaces unfold throughout.