Antelope Valley Residence
Research on sectional stacking from earlier projects is re-visited in this still-in-progress design for a small unit poised above a garage and tucked into the side of a forested, north facing slope. Materials common to the region – each evoking a specific set of fond memories and sensations for the client – define the levels of the stack of plateaux. Grouped by dimension and programmatic requirements, multiple stacks comprise each story of the structure.
Seeking to align themselves with the new business models of the technology sector, Arcturus – a Pasadena, CA venture capital firm named after the dominant star of the Little Bear constellation – wanted offices which were simultaneously "business casual" yet "starched". The striped reception desk was originally inspired by the shirts of one of the partners. But the idea of a striped desk expanded into a paean to six materials traditionally found in the investment business: wood paneling, desktop linoleum, green glass similar to old bankers' lamps, the color of money, formica, and rubber molding. The desk becomes a centerpiece for the theme "everything old is new again," embodying both the traditions of the industry yet pointing to this company's innovation. Simple CNC-milled oak wall panels define the entry and are inscribed by a cluster of constellations, as well as the star Arcturus itself, and serves as a minimal diagram of the synergistic business practice of the company.
See the feature article at Interior Design Magazine.
Photo Credit: Eric Staudenmeier
Greenwich Village Res
A private garden at the rear of the eighteenth-century ground floor West Greenwich Village apartment encouraged this gut remodel to become a "dumb-bell" scheme with "living spaces" being planned for either end of the building as it accesses light. A long hall stretches between the two ends of apartment. In this portion, the history of the structure was revealed by exposing the original wood joists and peeling away the layers of plaster to reveal the rough brick. In contrast to this roughness, modern, clean-lined cabinets were constructed to look almost like giant armoires sitting in space. As the center of the apartment was relatively dark, various light boxes were developed to punctuate the space. Light artist John Wigmore was hired to design a "parade of lamps" running from one end to the other.
Art v. Architecture
One of the ongoing tropes leveled at the Guggenheim is the critique of the uneasy relationship between the Art it displays and its Architectural setting. This is a matter of debate of course. But perhaps more than any other institution worldwide, the Guggenheim has become synonymous with ambitious architecture. Because the architecture is so present, a show at a Guggenheim museum necessitates a dialog from the artists with the building. Our proposal embraces this pro-architectural agenda but also returns to the idea of the traditional gallery setting – galleries independent from the architecture which contain them. We provide both an ambitious architectural environment and the provision of high-quality, “neutral” galleries (the proverbial “white cube”) nested within to provide maximum flexibility to artists and curators to have absolute control of how the work is exhibited and perceived. A stroll through our galleries - arrayed around the central atrium -offers contrasting experiences of interiority and of richly divergent material palettes.
Helsinki lacks a serious collection of art - at least by the standards found in London, Paris, or New York. The construction of this museum will provide the opportunity to curate a diverse collection of high quality early 21st century art: all in the form of artist-designed fabrications for the building. We are using the Guggenheim Helsinki process as an opportunity to work collaboratively with artists in its making - as a project of cultural construction for the city of Helsinki rather than simply another destination for the international art world. In fact, our design will seek to form as many artist integrations as is feasible. Most of the detail in our renderings is to be considered a placeholder for something else an artist would design and we would integrate. As an example, we plan to work with Olafur Eliasson in the making of the platinum-glazed tile cladding of the galleries; or perhaps Jorge Pardo in the making of the lobby. Additional collaborations – to name a few - will include elevator installations, flooring installations, and light installations or all sorts to nurture ambient glows. We have also made spatial transcriptions from other Guggenheims: our atrium for instance is similarly sized and proportioned to the atrium in New York albeit very different in feel. This may make it easier for complex shows - like that of Maurizio Cattelan’s - to travel from New York. Similarly, we included a gallery which is nearly the same size and proportion of the great gallery in Bilbao.
The site for Guggenheim Helsinki can contribute critically to the making of a rich and vibrant South Harbor. We want to maintain the busy atmosphere of the harbor and reinforce it as a gateway into Helsinki. Our goal is to make as many connections to other active areas of the harbor – with the activity of the Guggenheim itself significantly animating the environment. To embrace the waterfront, we have nested our scheme into a sculpture park which extends southward from Market Square, through and around our proposal before continuing above the existing dockside parking and cargo, the future terminal reconstruction building, and shipping and receiving for the Guggenheim as a giant Green roof. This constructed ground serves as a catalytic ‘green blanket’ for the re-pedestrianization of the area and connects to points in the Tahititornin Vuori Park to the west. People filter across this raised ground down around the side of the Guggenheim along the waterfront and into the sculpture park.
Hist. Filipinotown Co-op
On a steep hillside just west of Downtown Los Angeles, two couples wanted to build four homes: two homes for each – one to live in while the other could be rented to help defer the costs of their respective mortgages. With a limited budget – much of which would have been spent fighting the hill with an enormous retaining wall – the clients decided to build a tall, dense structure which sought to have as much of the primary construction material on display as the final finish. The units were a simple arrangement of stacked boxes around a tall vertical shaft which served to introduce light into the depths of an otherwise overly fat building. The circulation in each of the units wrapped around this void – sometimes bridging through and over it. Light voids and openings were made as simply as possible to help develop and dramatize an inside-out relationship.
Hollywood Hills Residence
The site enjoys some of the most breath-taking views of Los Angeles imaginable. With expansive panoramas across the grid below – spanning from Downtown to Santa Monica and select views of Lake Hollywood and the Hollywood sign on the backside – the design process for this still in-progress house moved fairly quickly to becoming a glass house. Built on the ridge of a hill, the life of the house embraces indoor-outdoor, sustainable living – enabled by walls of glass and huge sliding glass doors that open whole walls to the outdoors. The life of the house will smoothly flow between the indoor and outdoor rooms between shaded and sunny areas. Below the living level is the entrance through a parking court at the end of a long drive uphill. And above are three bedrooms and related programming each with excellent framed views. A balcony encircles the upper level of the structure and allows one to promenade around the house high up in the air.
Holmby Hills Residence
We were asked to help renovate an older home with a number of interesting details. The only problem was the house needed to be moved into in one month’s time! Given the tight timetable we focused our efforts on the few substandard spaces of the home such as a thirty year old kitchen and a couple of problematic bathrooms. The rest of the rooms were all freshened up and were made to accommodate a number of surgical interventions to help hang, display, and light the client’s large art collection. We worked closely with the Interior Decorator who furnished each of the rooms.
Interiors furnished by Lauren Soloff
Photo credit: Nicholas Alan Cope
Homeless Youth Drop-In
Hollywood offers the illusion of numerous and glamorous opportunities for the youth who leave the untenable situations they had at home. But the journey often ends in homelessness, an issue that finds new dimensions with each generation. Selected after a competitive process to help renovate an existing homeless youth drop-in center located in Hollywood, the design needs to upgrade and properly house the growing number of programs this agency provides. Clients receive food, clothing, dental, medical, parenting classes, bathing opportunities and laundry, along with a host of creative classes. The design challenges lie in balancing communal areas which have clear sightlines for staff for the sake of security, with private spaces for individual counseling and case management – all within a tight space. Producing the finished environment walks a tightrope. While it must be inviting and comfortable, it should be neither too domestic nor too institutional, as homeless youth view both families and institutions as having failed them. Warren Techentin Architecture is committed to helping support My Friends Place Homeless Youth Center and can be accessed here.
Jinhai Lake Residence 1
Sleeping Black Dragon House
The client-developer expressed interest in a circular house. The circle has had a great tradition in Chinese architecture. It’s shape is efficient and creates a compact, energy efficient house with less surface area exposed to the elements. As we developed the circular scheme, we liked how the plans worked, and the mobius-like interior flows and movements it generated. We also liked how the rooms related to each other - offering both privacy for a potentially multi-generational clientele - yet allowing a casual connection between the various programs. Window and door openings were cut and shaped to take advantage of potential indoor –outdoor relationships as well as the views, adjacent exterior spaces, and the fall of the hillside slopes. As necessary for their orientation wood shading systems have been integrated to provide a sense of scale and rhythm.
The client was also interested in embracing aspects of traditional architecture. We investigated the modern transformation, hybridization, and application of traditional materials, colors, and textures common to Northern China: all of which are ecologically sensitive and responsive to the light and weather of the Jinhai Lake region as well. The house is built with a concrete core; a hammered bronze exterior wall with wood and glass inserts; and high-performance roofing.
Floor Area: 421m2
Garage Area: 56m2
Number of Bedrooms: 4
Number of Bathrooms: 4.5
Jinhai Lake Residence 2
Ice-Ray Lattice House
On a client trip to the historic Summer Palace north of Beijing, I witnessed a wide array of traditional Chinese lattice designs. There were so many different types and styles present in the various pavilions I left fascinated by the tradition and its potential to inform architecture. When I returned, our office researched lattice types further as part of the design of the house. We were fascinated in particular by the type of lattice design known as the “Ice-Ray” design which symbolically represents the cracking ice on a lake at the onset of Spring. We felt this was a particularly appropriate beginning to a project overlooking the beautiful Jinhai Lake in the mountains north of Beijing.
This house was required to be large (1000 square meters!). To adequately balance the light, we borrowed strategies gleaned from the Hutong housing districts of Beijing and organized the domestic spaces around a central courtyard. In warmer months one could circulate through the courtyard while in the colder months, it creates a peaceful, animated center to the house as in the movie Raise the Red Lantern. We used numerous materials in the project - each of which are responsive to the light and weather of Jinhai Lake. They recall traditional materials and techniques from Northern China, and are all ecologically sensitive. The house contains a concrete core; concrete and glass lattices, hi-performance glass systems, and hi-performance roofing in which we have integrated all of the services as well as a green roof.
Floor Area: 950m2
Garage Area: 70m2
Number of Bedrooms: 6
Number of Bathrooms: 6
La Cage aux Folles
This structure explores the use of small diameter elements in the making of architecture. The nomadic, Mongolian yurt (which served as the inspiration for this project) is a structure comprised of a multiplicity of small wooden rods, which when joined together create a sturdy form. Each element of the composition becomes a participant with numerous roles to play: shape, structure, shear, ornament, pattern, history. Arrayed in a circle, the rods become a system which defines a thin enclosure to create a small room which serves as safe haven from the harsh forces of nature outside.
A multiplicity of interlocking structural members also defines a cage - a small room built to contain animals or other specimens from nature. Architecturally, the cage holds a troubled history: the gilded Victorian birdcage is perceived simultaneously as an object of delight and excess; whereas, because of their use in prisons cages serve as a reminder of architecture’s less triumphant concerns. A cage is a naked, dematerialized surface, the result of the desire to reduce the material presence of the container - whether for the inhabitant’s need for air or to make more visible the contained – while assuring structural certainty of ongoing containment. As the contained body is rarely there of its own accord, a panoptic relationship is created between inside and out, where the roles of the observer and the observed – judgment and judged - are firmly defined. Bodies themselves have also been described as cages – mere biological material which animates but ultimately tethers the ability of the mind or soul to expand beyond its physical limitations. In a cage, all things are animal again.
A small structure in the setting of a garden or in a landscape has sometimes been called a folly, a word with hybrid meanings. From its French origin, it speaks of delight, madness, an exotic performance, and even of a favored dwelling. Architectural follies typically situate architecture in conversation with nature but also embrace themes, allowing the architect to invoke a set of short-hand experiences for desired effect. A folly allows for the opportunity to explore or play with architectural scenarios in unexpected or poetic ways - to break free from the traditions and responsibilities normally accorded to architecture. Moreover, they are often used to engage the discourse of architecture – becoming a method for questioning or critiquing assumed disciplinary narratives and assumptions. However, follies serve as more than mere objects of intellectual curiosity. They are built structures which locate activities, events, rendezvous, and other experiences, providing a point of visual or physical gathering in an otherwise continuously flowing or undifferentiated environment.
from line to form
The use of steel tubes in design has been synonymous with the rise of the modern movement and in particular modern mass-produced furniture. The architect Marcel Breuer famously fashioned a stool from the simple looping of a bent steel tube, inspiring many others - from Mart Stam and Le Corbusier through Warren Platner and Harry Bertoia.
La Cage aux Folles explores the little used craft of pipe bending in architecture and joins form, computational procedures, and fabrication processes. Using ‘Schedule 40’ steel tubes, the installation explores the idea of constructing parametric surfaces with fields of linear strands which simultaneously define variable spatial conditions in synchronicity with structural needs. The tubes are organized in shifting and layered continuities, using bends to transfer loads and rigidify the structure at the same time as conveying a sense of space and form. Each of the members is looped and variably arrayed through a generative algorithm. As each loop crosses others, connections are made in some places to take advantage of triangulation while in others the space is turned inside-out. If one were to calibrate these bends and transitions to habitation and use, new types of porosity are generated, folding together
inside and outside / captivity and protection / function and ornament / shape and line / stasis and dynamism.
La Cage aux Folles Timelapse
Constructing La Cage
Activating La Cage aux Folles - Summer 2014 (Performance Series Reel)
Awards & Honorable Mentions:
Architizer's A+ Award, Pop-Ups and Temporary Finalist
AZURE's AZ Award, Temporary/Demonstration Architecture Finalist
International Design Awards (IDA), 2014 Silver Award
Read the review of 'La Cage' on KCRW Design & Architecture, Archdaily, A|N Fabrikator, Architizer, LA I'm Yours, Designboom, KCET's Artbound, Huffington Post, and the related feature on Materials & Applications at The Los Angeles Times.
Project Manager: Rob Michel. Project Designer: Brent Nishimoto. Project Contributor: Farnoosh Rafaie. WTARCH Construction Team: Anna Schulze, Andrew Porter, Soha Haji Momeni, Jess Castillo, Ian Witarsa, Molly Bell, Christina Hwang
Photo Credits: Nick Cope and Stephen Linsley
Los Feliz Apartments
The site sits within a quarter mile of a Metrolink stop and permits the building to be taller than typically allowed and encourages mixed programming to promote pedestrianism on the sidewalk. The ground floor features a market which opens out at the corner to the intersection and is sandwiched between parking above and below. The corner is cut back to allow for chairs and tables. A variety of unit types were developed to provide for a variety of living conditions. Green strategies were deployed to make the building more sustainable.
Los Feliz Residence 1
Foundations for any project in Los Angeles are expensive (sometimes approaching 20%-25% of total project costs). Seeking to eliminate these costs, this remodel used the structural lines of the existing house to organize the re-design – cantilevering whole sections of the house and building a third floor to add space without additional foundation work. Existing rooms were re-organized to define five diagrammatic domestic boxes which lent coherency to programmatic relations within: 1. life spaces (bedrooms and living rooms); 2. work spaces; 3. kitchen; 4. embedded pool bathroom; and 5. underground support spaces. Joining these volumes is a loose-slung, faceted enclosure squeezed between the boxes to create double-high space and spatial directionality while simultaneously generating the proverbial nooks and crannies for storage. From each of these boxes, openings were carefully placed and calibrated to serve as frames for views directed at several impressive large trees which surround the property, making the windows and what they framed into conceptual landscapes, comprised of the living landscape.
See the feature articles at Interior Design Magazine and The Architect's Newspaper, and a house tour at Apartment Therapy.
See additional photos and coverage from the 2010 Dwell On Design Home Tour at Design Milk and at Curbed LA.
Photo Credits: Benny Chan and Eric Staudenmeier
Beginning as a garage that housed the client's electric vehicle and its charger, the project grew to encompass the addition of a new 484 square foot loft unit above it to adequately encompass programmatic needs and zoning potentials. In lieu of an addition, this structure was built as an independent unit thereby doubling the density of the lot without losing its essential detached character – an alternative for Los Angeles instead of condo-ization. The clients asked for a building that would embrace concepts of green design. Numerous strategies were integrated toward this end, including solar panels, non-toxic materials, shaded wall and roof surfaces, renewable materials, the elimination of gas as an energy source, the development of stack effects, and increased insulation. The structure is compact – squeezed into the remaining space of the lot – and the form of it is manipulated by the site forces imposed on the space – such as a large tree and tight parking back-ups – which required the structure to twist, fold, and stretch as it rises to maximize solar efficiency.
Recipient of the 2013 AIA California Council Merit Award.
See the feature article at The New York Times T Magazine and Designboom.
Photo Credit: Nicholas Alan Cope
One World Offices
The availability of buildings in South Dakota – and the Midwest in general – is staggering due to net population losses throughout the region. Seeking to keep the youth of Mobridge, South Dakota from moving to cities far away which promise more of everything, the clients bought and renovated a 20,000 square foot nineteenth century industrial building in South Dakota. When completely built-out, the building design will accommodate nearly 200 employees, allowing it to become a major employer in the community. In addition to the 175-seat call center, 9-executive offices, and a data vault, One World wanted their new offices to offer a number of additional programs typically found in urban areas but not immediately available in the vicinity such as a day care facility, a gym, a conference center, and a cafe. The interiors are defined by minimal modern materials set against the existing architectural fragments and materials saved from the existing building as well as elements found in the local craft of the community such as Native American corncob murals and hay topiary.
Pacific Palisades Res
A series of steel tube and structural glass walls step back across the site to modify and define the spaces of an addition to an existing home, and provides for a new kitchen, a master closet, a new stair, an office space, and a re-worked media room. In this project, the clients evoked the scenario of the house's use during a football game day as a way to understand desired flows throughout. Seven loops, returns, and circuits were developed to facilitate and energize flow inside and out. By rotating "the grain" of the house 90 degrees and running the walls front to back, the addition modulates the abutting spaces with natural light and provides needed lateral force resistance while maintaining visual privacy with the neighbors. The placement of the walls also accentuates the front courtyard and helps structure openings with the use of the space while at night they provide a soft glow through the glass for dinner outdoors analogous to a Japanese lamp.
Landscape architecture designed by David Fletcher, interiors furnished by Tim Clarke.
Photo Credit: Eric Staudenmeier
This soon-to-be high performance green home for a family of five is currently in the design process. These images are the result of several studies for SIPS paneling and the relationship of the paneling with a steel structural system.
Santa Monica Residence
We were hired to design a single family house, on a very small irregular site with a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean, which could readily be used for parties and entertaining. The neighborhood required that the design adopt one of three styles. We selected the International Style option. Deciding on a take toward history, we developed the house as a sampling or collage of well-known elements from this period: a conceptual “Best Hits” from that period including Mies’ cruciform column, Duiker’s glass curtain wall, Raymond Roussel’s 1903 poem “The View”, and Joseph Albers’ framing strategies. In addition, the client asked that the house be as “green”, (beyond provisions already in place in Santa Monica), and “networked” as possible.
Photo Credit: Monica Nouwens
Sherman Oaks Residence
It is said that architect, Joseph Eichler built over 10,000 of his nearly all-glass basilica-roofed houses which first popularized modernism in California. They were so popular that imitators popped up just to satisfy market demands. The clients bought one of these pseudo-Eichlers in desperate need of repair and needed to add space to account for their growing family. They wanted to keep the all-glass spirit of the existing house. To achieve this, all the glass needed to be switched out with high performance insulated panels. Insulation was added to the structure where possible. A new master bedroom suite was positioned just outside of the existing structure and connected with a short hallway, allowing freedom from the confinement of the low roof of the main house. The roof of the addition soars upwards to allow views down the valley from a small writer's perch, and of California sycamores around the property from the bed of the master suite.
Photo Credit: Nicholas Alan Cope
South Pasadena Studio
An artist known for her portraits and landscapes wanted to create a multi-function accessory structure at the rear of her lot largely to serve as a painting studio, but also as an ancillary garage, a pool house, future play room and to provide an end to their large property for her family. The structure is based on the size required to house 4 cars and carried to its maximum allowable height of 15'-0". One bay is given over to "closed" functions and accommodates storage, a clean-up area, a bathroom, and an office loft. Several strategies for the roof were proposed during a stringent Design Review process. The final, curved version represents the desire to embrace and wrap the space in addition to reducing the scale of the large structure from the house. The studio is anchored in the garden by the column of an outdoor fireplace which offers warmth after a swim on summer nights.
Photo Credit: Eric Staudenmeier
Sun Valley Residence
The typical log cabin tends to be apathetic or indifferent toward their sites in all respects other than the material with which they are constructed. Generally they require the builder to make a flat cleared site and produce a rectangular house of iconic proportions punctuated with regularly cut windows. This project investigated how this traditional construction system could be adapted to a design process which integrated the shifting topography of the landscape – to provoke specific responses in the form of the house to its context – terracing progressively down to the Big Wood River and bending towards it and opening up to the views around it and down the valley. Because the shape of the house diverged from standard orthogonal corners, special joints were required. Traditional construction methods were modified – sometimes incorporating Japanese joinery techniques to accommodate the angles.
Tallinn Street 2020
Tallinn Architecture Biennale: Street 2020 Competition
Peer-to-Peer Urbanism: Developing a high performance landscape network in Tallinn
Our concept was to develop a street which connects as many people and ideas as possible through the use of landscape strategies with a simple "user interface". This new Boulevard will connect the historic City to the beachfront, provides a strong edge to the port area, and seeks to unify the disparate existing but undefined open spaces into the collective use of the entire district as a large pedestrian park. The new district which will emerge around this street accommodates a wide array of programming types - at all scales - from the micro clustering of kiosks to provision of large footprint (5000 square meters) office space desired by Internet businesses. The street will form a new entry to Tallinn for visitors and a place to enjoy the city outdoors with physical activity and street vending. Lastly, the street incorporates a series of man-made and natural infrastructural systems to treat wastewater and sequester carbon – some of which will be open to tourism and businesses underground. Following is a list of urban features to be included in the renovation of the overall site area.
1> Small Lot Development: Proposed with limited height along the entirely of the south side to avoid deep shadows on the new, super-GREEN Pedestrian Boulevard. The scale of these lots will help reproduce the existing scale of the architecture found in Tallinn and play host to hybrid programming strategies.
2> Subterranean Parking: Required for each construction with garage. Access is NOT from the new Boulevard.
3> Pocket Parks: A series of landscaped Greenways are being introduced to connect with the university district to the south, traversing through the proposed large scale internet office spaces.
4> Green Alley: Covered in a pervious surface, it allows access to parking and the collection of trash.
5> Housing Wall: Provides a boundary between the port and the new Boulevard. It serves as a solar reflector to optimize light in the winter on the new Boulevard. This super long building provides nearly 1000 new units and is punctuated with raised green-roofed decks.
6> Green-roofed Decks: Offering multi-level, outdoor life in Tallinn.
7> Underground Truckway: Passes through the city underground to avoid conflict with pedestrians. At certain locations, the truckway rises up to access the ferry port. Also at these locations, retail and other amenities are planned.
8> Retail Vendors: Commercial retail lines the northern edge of the vehicular, lower street.
9> Area of Toxic Remediation: Trees and other plants are used to help remediate the area which is currently used for industrial purposes.
10> Pedestrian Crosswalk with Enlarged Sidewalk: Sidewalk flares to "shorten" the distance across the street.
11> Dedicated Bike Lane: This lane, painted in Estonian blue clearly marks where bikes have right-of-way.
12> Walkable Center Median: Between opposing lanes of traffic, the median functions as a small linear garden one can navigate through.
13> Digital Street Sign: The entire edge of the raised street will incorporate a digital street sign which not only hosts quotidian information like shop names and addresses, but will also host numerous embedded sensors linked to cellphone use and GPS to help people discover their environment and each other in real time.
14> TallinnTRAM Promenade: a place to wait for the new tram line but also to go jogging or push your baby in a stroller.
15> Walk-able Tramway: Like Alexander Platz in Berlin, this tramway is easily crossed by pedestrians and in areas where it is raised, the ride along it affords amazing views of the city of Tallinn.
16> Ornamental Gardens: the flows of the pedestrian traffic slowed somewhat by large, mass-plantings of monolithic bulbs and flowers which seek to encourage as many different growing seasons throughout the year as possible.
17> Fruit and Shade Trees.
18> Kiosks: Vegetables, Currywurst, etc.
19> Pedestrian Promenade: A large multi-surfaced promenade which encourages micro scale retailing, a series of small landscape interventions, and seating.
20> Stairways: Multiple stairs and elevators ease flow between the upper and lower street levels. Access to adjacent building can occur at upper or lower levels too.
21> Bus Stops.
22> Wastewater Catchment Basin: Large underground water trough for all rainwater run-off as well as greywater treatment to be purified to be used to help water landscape and clean streets.
23> Anaerobic Digesters: To convert sewage and other biodegradable sludge into energy and fertilizer.
24> Catacombs and Caves: As in Paris, underused underground spaces can be converted into graveyards, wine caves, aeroponic agriculture, and civilian defense shelters. A number of non-specific underground spaces are planned alongside all of the infrastructure interventions which support tourist needs today but could also house future yet-to-be realized infrastructure upgrades.
25> Tours of the Wastewater Treatment Facility.
26> Rentable Server Farms: Dedicated storage space for internet cloud infrastructure.
See an interview with Warren Techentin at the blog Urban Lab Global Cities.
Stemming from childhood vacation memories in post-hippie California spent in convivial A-frames, tents, yurts, and modern bungalows, the design begins with the 'great room', a casual space where everyone sleeps, eats, plays games, and hangs out together in one room, though sometimes on different levels. The design explores an interest in the tradition of fabric walls typical of tent structures such as traditional Mongolian yurts which assure a close relationship with the weather and the natural systems of the world just outside but can be regulated through layering and the peeling back of layers. Set in Sun Valley, Idaho – a place where luxury yurt expeditions have a keen following - this vacation home begins by using layers of high performance ETFE insulated skin as an enclosure with a final skin of Merimekko fabric lining the inside.
See Wallpaper* Magazine's photo shoot here.
Photo Credit: Nicholas Alan Cope
Warsaw History Museum
This competition entry sought to make a building, a park, and an urban space promoting participative interactivity with both Polish history and the culture and city of urban Warsaw. The design should be viewed as a set of interfaces through which the visitor – or simply the passerby - can explore, experience, and engage with history in a park setting. The following considerations inform the building:
Information Strategy > The project should be seen more as a mediatheque than as mere storage for dead reliquaries and found objects from history. Many efforts were made through the use of architecture, landscape architecture, and urbanism to promote the re-animation of history through conversation, digital interface, and pneumonic devices. The site was developed as a network through which Polish history was continually re-energized by the re-evaluation of the present alongside the facts, supported by objects, of the past. The media room, envisioned more as a living room than a library, took the ceremonial center of the building and directly connected it with all of the departments for which the building is planned. Directly above, on the roof of the building, and connected with the media room, is a history garden. This garden is also easily accessible by the public and incorporates space for inscribed instructional texts, surfaces for fleeting texts (an urban blackboard, electronic ticker-tape), selected objects & statues, discussion gardens, and 2-meter tall hybrid skylight/touch-screen computers all of which allow people to engage directly with the history of Poland and Warsaw informally. From this garden views were orchestrated into the exhibition areas to help make connection between living and curated history. The exhibition rooms were choreographed into two bands which allow different speeds for the explanation of Polish history. Throughout the expanded site, the 2-meter tall glass totems were used to allow the same digital access to history as well as becoming signals for the location of events throughout the year through light and sound.
Building Strategy > The project maximized its relationships to the site forces and the beautiful surrounding environment. As such, the Forum, the Exhibition Reception Hall, the café, and the administrative offices all peek over the edge to views of the Wisla River Valley below. The building is a slender form located in the gap between the trees above the causeway, working in conjunction with the Ujazdow Castle by re-enforcing the Skarpa as the location of the most prominent Polish cultural buildings. The Forum and the café both open to a patio adjacent to the bikeway which connects this building to the Parliamentary building to the North; helping to make the MPH a destination and part of collective experience of the city through landscape. The design made the MPH an “open” building and “user-friendly” - making it easy to bring people into and on top of it, providing numerous activities to allow visitors to stay awhile, and helping them to experience the best elements of the site alongside the history of Poland.
Urban Strategy > The design pushed to reconnect the site with the original Baroque planning system through placement of a series of circular elements helping pedestrians navigate the path from the city into the culture park. In combination with other strategies, the circles sought to erase the current spatial separation of the park from the city. Visual access of the Ujazdow Castle along the Baroque axis from the city was maintained and a new row of trees – though spaced farther apart – emphasized this connection for future generations as they grow larger. Additionally, the axis was re-energized as an art walk mixing pedestrian, bicycle, automobile, and bus traffic. The site will remain under the canopy of the existing trees. The covered freeway, Trasa Lazienkowska, could be seen as an open pedestrian bridge floating between the existing trees of the forest. It hosted a series of park-programs and supplementary planting structures. Ancillary programs featured vendors of Polish cuisine, spaces which seek to memorialize aspects of Polish history, as well as structures such as a beer garden and a merry-go-round which facilitated the enjoyment of the park
Park Strategy > The competition entry sought to affirm the park as a continuous system providing an understanding of the city through a series of landscape strategies. It was developed as a cultural landscape seeking to infuse components of Polish History alongside other events and activities with the intention to transform this region of the park from its current passive/pastoral existence to a participatory/ programmed landscape complimenting and supporting the activities of the buildings which are there. The circles, inspired by the numerous Baroque planning circles of Warsaw became locations for activities, but also how planting was organized. In them were planted miniature, contained forests of single tree types important to Polish history. Atop the Trasa Lazienkowska, the circles were mass planters for plants with shallow roots such as edible gardens, rhizome plants, and large seasonal flower beds.
We were asked to help masterplan a regional library for a heavily forested site in the town of Waxhaw. Our proposal explores the notion of the site becoming a cluster of public and private uses which focus on the participatory issues of learning, media, and sustainability.
Building a library is the best way communities can improve their citizen's access to the world of reading, computers, and ultimately to media of all varieties which, taken together, unlock the many opportunities available in the world. Despite the rise of the internet which some have cited would destroy the need for the library, library use and construction has increased substantially BECAUSE they provide badly needed access to media.
Libraries have radically changed their role in our communities in recent years. They are no longer simply the repository of books required for research. They now actively offer a variety of media which people use: books, magazines, newspapers, maps, books on tape, children's books, DVDs, and even CDs are all available for use. Moreover, libraries provide computers, allowing access to digital resources such as the internet or software to help create resumes, do taxes, photo editing, etc. which many people – particularly teens – may not have access to otherwise.
We are proposing, in conjunction with the proposed New Town Hall on North Church Street, to create a Civic Axis between these structures: a formalized one on Church street, and a parallel, informal pedestrian passage on Hicks Street. Together, these two civic buildings and the activities they sponsor will articulate a "historic" center between them, centered around the commercial activity of Main and Broome Streets ultimately helping to bracket its edges. The most memorable small towns have strong centers. We propose to place these two buildings – which typically get placed in the middle of a town – slightly to the edges of the action: to "focus" future dense, pedestrian development at the center.
The library can help sponsor civic participation by being host to a variety of activities otherwise unavailable nearby while simultaneously drawing on its proximity to Main Street to develop a reciprocal relationship with the commercial center. Additionally, surplus parking has been provided to accommodate overflow, and intense clumps of activity in town. The library will become a destination to the region, and the goal is to have the library as a starting point for civic itineraries in Waxhaw.
As daily life becomes more and more enmeshed with media, libraries are adapting a number of uses formerly accommodated in community centers or even schools. Although they still embrace silence to allow people to read and study, libraries have become gathering sites – where people can meet to discuss civic concerns – to take a class, debate an idea, or orally transmit a story. Multipurpose space should be included with a direct connection with the outdoor spaces.
The spaces surrounding the library have been explored in this proposal with the goal of offering open space amenities to the community and providing space for events that may not work elsewhere. Immediately surrounding the building, we have integrated a number of spaces which directly correspond with interior programs. We have included a space outside of the community center for informal gatherings. In addition, outdoor space is located near the children's reading area. We have also orchestrated exterior spaces to help sponsor events for the larger community. As an example, the Parking area could double as space for many community events such as a farmer's market, small fairs, etc. Additionally, the area to the south of the library will be left forested as it is now, but cleared of some of its low brush so the rest of the site effectively becomes open space with walking paths, reading and gathering areas, and exercise areas: a shady, natural space counter balancing the formal park located on Main Street to the north.
Lastly, we have taken cues from contemporary bookstores and the expanded array of activities they promote by providing more leasable space (also functionally separated from the library for operational ease) for symbiotic programs such as a cafe, a bookstore, or event space, which – in theory – the library can expand into over time.
West Los Angeles Apts
The developers of this project asked for a 94-unit condominium over two floors of parking in a historically Japanese neighborhood in West Los Angeles. To counter the impact a building of this size has – both inside of the building and upon the neighborhood – the building "snakes" back-and-forth on the site, introducing a number of different courtyards of various configurations – some of which can be viewed into from the street. The design of each unit was varied to optimize its relationship with the courtyard outside, while also helping to develop differentiation between units and a sense of individualized personality to each of the units. The ground floor is given over to live /work units which each have a sleeping loft, a front yard, and a direct entrance from the street. The diversity of units was seen as one of the major reasons the building sold out so quickly even after the economic downturn.
See additional photos and coverage at Curbed LA.
Photo Credit: Eric Staudenmeier
The client's desire to completely start over with the unit she had already lived in for ten years was impressive. She wanted to re-build with a minimal, clean look and wanted to correct a bizarre floor plan, marked by a long, circuitous, mirrored hall snaking around the unit to find the living room. This required moving the kitchen and a number of services, which – on the 11th floor of a 30 story tower – became a feat of choreography. A direct connection from the entry to the living / dining / bar area was carved out, allowing natural light to enter deep into the apartment. All other rooms were re-modeled and modernized, with special attention to non-toxic and sustainable materials.
Interiors furnished by Kimberly Biehl Schmidt Interior Design.
Photo Credit: Eric Staudenmeier