Morning Light: A Way To Live
Artists make things, and by necessity are resourceful problem solvers. In this architectural project I wanted to create a living and working environment, integrating inside with outside, privileging simplicity of design, abundant space, and a primary experience of nature. It all began predictably enough with a reexamination of how to live, and how through design in a natural environment one might live better. A paradox of contemporary life is often that gratifying employment and cultural access can only be found in a city, while play, freedom and the experience of the natural world are more readily available in the country. In creating Morning Light, I tried to combine the essential satisfactions of both - work and play – the country in the city.
The project combines my enthusiasm for art, architecture, landscape and furniture design – integrating form and function, light and space, making and meaning, and for spice a touch of whimsy in the pragmatic - all capturing dramatic visuals enhanced by the sound of running water. The plan called for the orientation of two interpenetrating structures converging at a 45-degree angle, one for work and one for play (a studio and living quarters) arranged by the unique opportunities of an irregular shaped site. These intersecting rectangles dovetailed, producing dramatic sculptural wedges as a counterpoint to the primary box-like spaces. One initially discovers it driving to the top of the hillside street, and then glimpsing a dramatic two-story looming white wedge that slices the sky. The design theme of a diagonal and curve piercing a flat plane announces the steel entry, and is echoed throughout the plan – from wood cabinetry to steel staircase to concrete and landscaped berm. Selected materials convey a sense of time-passing through the process of becoming – like visible fossils embedded in limestone, crosscut-grain in Douglas Fir and Cherry wood, smooth troweled concrete and plaster, galvanized and rusting hot-rolled steel.
The three-level residence was built on a challenging hillside in earthquake prone Los Angeles, and took about four years to realize. The grounds and structure required deep steel-beam soldier- piles placed around the property’s perimeter, and under the house, massive steel and concrete caissons descending up to 65 feet into bedrock. The picturesque site however, rewards the effort with its park like setting and abundant large old growth trees - Cedar, Lemon Gum Eucalyptus, Old Hami Bamboo, California Pine, Podocarpus and Pepper trees. Much of the dwelling was fabricated with natural materials such as honed Lagos Azul and Gascogne Blue limestone, walnut, fir and cherry hardwoods, raw and stainless steel, plus low-energy dual-glazed and sandblasted tempered glass. The complexity of the design proved challenging to construct, and ultimately one learns that apart from a quest for beauty and perfection, the most significant requirements for its creation were infinite patience, endless ingenuity, stubborn perseverance and of course, a checkbook. I feel quite fortunate to live in generous Southern California, at the top of the eastern facing Santa Monica Mountains, in the Mulholland Corridor above the San Fernando Valley. Each day one awakens to a dawn of subtle shifting hues and vivid morning light in distant panoramic vistas, like a gift of colorful flowers.