Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 12/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
"Hi, this is Ron down at the plant." When we first called Marmol Radziner + Associates, years ago, that was the voice-mail greeting. It still is today. And those eight words give a clue to how Ron Radziner and Leo Marmol run their design-build practice in Los Angeles.
From ground-up structures and renovations, large and small, to cabinetry, metalwork, and furniture, the 72-person staff does it all. "We see construction as support for the design. It's part of the process," Marmol notes. Radziner adds, "Every line we draw, we're responsible for—financially and aesthetically." Equally inclusive are project types: residences, institutional buildings, and office and retail interiors that share a modernist-goes-contemporary attitude.
Marmol and Radziner's is a very California story, built on a foundation of diversity. Both are first-generation Americans. Marmol's family emigrated from Cuba to Marin County outside San Francisco in the 1950's, before moving to L.A. "I grew up in a Latin community. An architecture path was unusual," he says. Meanwhile, Radziner's parents, Dutch Holocaust survivors, came to L.A. in the 1950's. "From them, I learned to live life and do something I loved," he says. "Building, making things, is all I ever wanted to do."
The two met at California Polytechnic State University, where both earned architecture degrees. Radziner went on for a master's at the University of Colorado, where, incidentally, he grew out his now-famous hair as a buffer against the cold. They remet in L.A. while working for different firms. Committed to the city—which Radziner calls a "wonderful place for young architects to begin"—they opened their firm in 1989.
Their breakthrough was an L.A. studio-garage project that allowed them to express a personal vision. (Now, decades later, M+R is building the main house.) However, those up on the firm's work invariably cite the renovation of the Kaufmann house by Richard J. Neutra, Architect, in Palm Springs. "We started it in 1993 and finished it in 1998, and it's still talked about as if it were just off the boards," Marmol continues. He and the house even have a cameo in the recently released Julius Shulman documentary, Visual Acoustics.
A new pool house for the property followed, as did a spate of projects with a modernist lineage. For a studio exec, M+R constructed a 3,000-square-foot addition to a 1956 ranch house built by Cliff May in L.A. In Pasadena, the firm laid gentle hands on a hilltop house, part of a 1953 Thornton Ladd complex. Restoration of a 1962 John Lautner L.A. house required extensive research into original materials.
"Restoration provides a terrific learning opportunity. If we only did that, though, we'd go crazy," Radziner says. The build component of their design philosophy is essential. Consider an Altamira residence, a massive complex on a 19-acre site overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with views framed by the gutsy stone and concrete walls of the main house. Or the L.A. house that Radziner shares with his wife, graphic designer Robin Cottle, and their young son and daughter: Its two long volumes epitomize the inside-outside Southern California experience.
The house where Marmol spends weekends with his wife, Alisa Becket, a museum-development professional, and their son and daughter is 120 miles away in Desert Hot Springs. A prototype, it represents the firm's expansion into prefab, launched in 2005. "Prefab addresses our interests in sustainability. It's a new way of thinking," he says. Modules are delivered complete with systems in place as well as finishes absolutely as high-quality as those in a custom house by M+R.
Images from top: Ron Radziner's own house in Los Angeles, 2007. Photography: Joe Fletcher. Marmol Radziner + Associates design principal Ron Radziner. Managing principal Leo Marmol. Photography: Jack Coyier. Costume National in L.A., 2000; photography: Benny Chan/Fotoworks. Leo Marmol's own prototype prefab weekend house in Desert Hot Springs, California, 2005. Photography: Benny Chan/Fotoworks. The Desert House bed, 2005; photography: Benny Chan/Fotoworks.