Los Angeles is home to some of the best modern and contemporary residential architecture in the United States, if not the world. This quality arises from a number of factors: the 72-and-sunny climate and therefore an embrace of outdoor living; the dramatic topography, especially the foothills that open to views of L.A.'s plains; a sprawling urban landscape that invites single-family houses as much as apartments and vertical living; and of course the money that pays for the houses, be it from Hollywood or other local industries.
Yet, like Chicago, the residential climate is also influenced by historical modernists, especially Richard Neutra, R.M. Schindler, and Irving Gill. The last two figures are celebrated in Esther McCoy's indispensable Five California Architects, which also includes Bernard Maybeck, and the Greene brothers.
Gill quietly trailblazed simple unadorned forms before European modernists; R.M. Schindler articulated complex layering of surfaces and indoor and outdoor spaces; and Neutra used glass to open up hillside houses to expansive views, putting L.A. itself on display. More recently, Frank Gehry has left his mark on the city, influencing architects with his sculptural designs.
This ideabook focuses on L.A.'s houses removed from the Pacific Ocean. The inland residences that follow illustrate the various conditions that make L.A. a breeding ground for innovative architecture.
What better way to start an ideabook on Los Angeles architecture than a house that doubles as a place for watching movies. This second-floor projection doubles as a cover for a carport, putting the car on display as well. Yet neither display may not be able to compete with the panoramic view to the right, what Reyner Banham called the "Plains of Id" in his classic book, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies.
This residence by the same architect shows a similar opening up of the house towards dramatic views. Yet here we see another strand of L.A.'s residential architecture: sculptural design influenced by another local architect, Frank Gehry. While he is not solely responsible for this aspect of L.A.'s regional modernism, his unique blend of dynamic forms and cheap materials was embraced by many younger architects.
This house merges itself with the hilly landscape and presents a roofscape that formally responds to the same. Most dramatic are cantilevered portions that reach toward the Valley and create panoramic views through expansive glass facades.
From the street side, this large house is clearly delineated in three floors: a solid base built into the slope, a transparent middle, and a wood-clad top floor with windows articulated for privacy and views. This front barely hints at what is happening on the other side of the house, which you'll see next.
Amazing panoramic views of the urban plain are the result of the architect's plan. Here we are in the middle, transparent floor, where butt-glazed glass on the left and a sliding glass wall on the right provide indoor and outdoor enjoyment of this L.A. experience.
One architect clearly inspired by R.M. Schindler is Steven Ehrlich, whose carefully composed volumes, surfaces, and openings have influenced many younger architects. This large house appears smaller by stepping away from the street and articulating the different floors. It is modern yet elegant.