Classic Modern Thrives at Redelco House

As one recent project by Pugh+Scarpa demonstrates, the Los Angeles version of the classic Modern house is still thriving — glamorously so. The city's most memorable houses always seem to be perched high on the crest of a verdant hill where their taut, planar glass walls open out expansively to breathtaking views of surrounding mountains, valleys, and often the Pacific Ocean. Modernist architecture was made for L.A.'s dramatic topography, lush vegetation, and mild climate, as Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolf Schindler, and Richard Neutra discovered in the 1920s when designing their iconic residences for adventurous arts patrons. Later, in the post–World War II years, the Case Study House program, conceived by John Entenza, publisher and editor of Arts and Architecture magazine, proved that an audience for more modest, economical examples awaited. The spare, linear houses by Raphael Soriano, Pierre Koenig, Charles Eames, and Neutra, among others, promulgated indoor-outdoor living by taking advantage of the latest developments in glass and steel technology.

Some 60 years later, the Redelco House keeps that legacy alive: It maintains the simplicity and spareness of its Case Study predecessors, even if its 4,700-square-foot size exceeds the 1,200-to-2,500-square-foot range of the postwar efforts. Indeed, its scale and volumetric spaces bring to mind Schindler's 1926 house for Dr. Philip Lovell in Newport Beach. Similarly, its linear steel framing recalls the 1929 Neutra house for Lovell in Griffiths Park, which historian Thomas S. Hines calls the first all-steel-framed residence in America.

Designed for a young entrepreneur (who gave his home its corporate-sounding name), the Redelco House occupies a small, 100-by-150-foot site crowning a hill in Studio City, a district in Los Angeles that overlooks the San Fernando Valley. From the street, the house presents a deliberately subdued entrance, with copper cladding stretching over most of the south facade's metal frame to afford privacy to the residents and protect against heat gain. As one enters the domestic precinct, one's eye is drawn out toward the valley to the north, a panorama dramatically framed by the liquid line of a narrow pool bounding the limestone terrace.

The long rectangular main house is composed of two separate volumes: a steel-framed living and dining pavilion and, abutting it, a wood-framed structure in which a master bedroom sits atop the kitchen. A glass expansion joint for earthquake protection separates the two. Underneath the main level, the architects were able to tuck a gym and guest bedroom into the poured-concrete base of the house, where these spaces can open out onto a small green lawn, thanks to the drop in grade of the rear slope. The concrete substructure also supports the long trough of the swimming pool edging the entrance terrace above.

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