The House Of Tomorrow
Respectful of the Hollywood Hills environment, Hagy Belzberg built himself a home for years to come
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 11/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Hagy Belzberg got lucky. He was firmly entrenched in the single life seven years ago, when he purchased a ridgeline Hollywood Hills property and began to contemplate designing the proverbial statement piece that all architects dream of. Cut to last July. By the time that he and a team from Belzberg Architects completed the family-size house, he was married with a son and stepdaughter. Even now, he expresses surprise at his personal change of fortune.
As for the form of the 5,000-square-foot one-story residence, luck had nothing to do with it. Ditto for the AIA/LA Next Honor Award that Belzberg won for the project. "It's about treading lightly on the land," he says. Huh? That 122-foot-long volume looks about as light-footed as a herd of bulldozers, all visible from the road. So is the guesthouse, which echoes the language of the main house while adding 1,000 square feet to the compound.
"The shapes respond to the microenvironment," the architect explains—that's a 1½-acre property with most of it on a steep slope downhill. "A house like this would fail miserably at the beach." Site-specific concerns are a linchpin for Belzberg's practice overall, as are the project's other guiding principles: budget concerns and eco-sensitivity.
"Everything was set up to capture the southwest prevailing winds from the ocean," he continues. At just 22 feet wide, the house opens up completely at both ends via sliding glass doors in standard aluminum storefront frames. "The air sails right through," he says. Breezes or not, though, it gets hot in the Hollywood Hills. To play it smart, he built in heat deflectors. His most dramatic move comes due south, where a concrete flap thrusts 14 feet upward, totally blocking the entry from the sun. On the south elevation, the wide glass wall is fronted by massive horizontal slats of recycled wood composite, no paint or stain needed.
High drama on the exterior gives way to reined-in simplicity inside. In fact, the interiors may well confer 21st-century Case Study status on this project—they're that clean, that minimal. One open living area welcomes family sprawling. Essentially an indoor-outdoor room, it has two sets of huge glass pivot doors facing each other. Flooring is concrete, a polished version of the adjacent concrete pool surround. Reflected in the glossy floor, a spun-steel fire orb descends from the ceiling in a Sleeper kind of way.
The kitchen, outfitted in walnut and marble, serves as the pivot point between the main volume of the house and the perpendicular wing that contains four bedrooms, plus the master suite. Further demarcating the shift to the private zone, flooring transitions from concrete to white epoxy terrazzo. The bedroom corridor presents a chiaroscuro composition with sunshine streaming in through the slats in front of the glass wall—art of a more literal nature, primarily by Los Angeles painters, hangs on the wall opposite.
Of course, we're all aware of L.A.'s major art form. "I grew up here, so I love movies," Belzberg says. He turned his garage roof into an outdoor theater by adding gravel, grass, and a cherry-colored sectional sofa. The sofa is positioned to face the guesthouse's gray plaster end wall, where movies appear courtesy of a $1,200 projector simply mounted on the header of the garage. No expensive high-tech approach here.
Eco-consciousness in the construction phase meant purchasing materials close by. Belzberg stayed local for furniture, too, returning to one of his favorite haunts on Venice's hip Abbot Kinney Boulevard. In her hybrid gallery-shop, Elizabeth Paige Smith filled the bill with almost everything the architect needed: a chartreuse leather-covered sofa, an electric-blue acrylic Parsons table, a creamy resin-surfaced dining table, reminding Belzberg of his cherished surfboards. Oh, and denim-covered seating—this is L.A.
Looking ahead, Belzberg intends to up his green points with photovoltaic cells. He'll install them on the roof, and his solar water-heating system, already framed and plumbed, will be ready to go. And if he gazes deeper into his crystal ball? No doubt he sees a future full of daring design decisions.
Richard Skaff - 2007-12-03 18:37:00 EST
It's interesting to me the choice of words used in describing the architect's approach to the environment (Looking ahead)when he apparently didn't look ahead to whoever ends up living in this home but won't be able to live there if they age and aquire a disability!
This is good architecture?
This is good architecture?