Thanks to movies, Los Angeles holds much magic and when you own a home there it is only fitting that the home mirrors the glitz and the glam associated with Hollywood and matches the extravagant lifestyle of the insanely rich and popular neighbours.
If you have been coping with the global lockdown that different parts of the world has been experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic by bingeing on shows in Netflix then you may have come across ‘Selling Sunset’. It is an American reality television series on Netflix that revolves around the high-end residential properties in Los Angeles marketed by the Oppenheim Group’s real estate brokerage firm. The series tracks the group of agents as they navigate their personal and professional lives.
One of the homes that were featured heavily on listing agent Jason Oppenheim’s Netflix show “Selling Sunset” is The Hillside – a home in Los Angeles located immediately above Sunset Boulevard on a promontory just one over from Pierre Koenig’s landmark Stahl House. The site is a 20,000 square foot estate, featuring 300-degree views over the LA skyline and the city basin below, and the design was conceived of more as a self-contained oasis rather than a conventional house.
The Stahl House served as a key point of departure. The forms and articulation of Hillside’s roof planes, which were pushed as far forward as possible so that they could create meaningful external covered living spaces, set its architecture in dialogue with the iconic silhouette nearby and connect it to the drama of its context.
The projecting eaves and soffits create a “fifth” façade proved fortuitous in creating a sense of identity because the wraparound perimeter views necessitated the carefully controlled placement of solid walls and extensive use of glass to maximise the panoramic potential of the site. Consequently, the architecture is defined through the floating, overlapping horizontal floor and roof plates curating specific view axes rather than mass walls or external structure.
The steep approach from below resulted in a dramatic entrance through a top-lit central atrium – rising via a 12-car underground garage and an indoor waterfall cascading into a courtyard – before surfacing into the centre of the living level in a dramatic moment of revelation as a dead-on view of downtown LA opens up. The programme is arranged around this focal view, loosely forming two wings, one oriented east-west, and the other north-south. The largely open-plan interior, in the absence of mass walls, has been articulated vertically and through volumetric changes to rationalise the layout.
References to modernist construction techniques are picked up in the articulation of the steel columns and the sensuous and tactile use of timber and limestone on the floors and wall, which is carried extensively throughout the interior and exterior detailing. Some of the identifying features such as the cut-outs in the roof have been reprised in the detailing of the interior ceilings to add interest.
In keeping with SAOTA’s extensive experience in developing seamless indoor and outdoor open-plan living spaces appropriate to their base in Cape Town, South Africa, where the Mediterranean climate and topography are very similar to that in LA, they conceived of the project as a series of living rooms connected to extensive covered outdoor terraces. These outdoor spaces are in turn enclosed by a vast undulating infinity pool and lush landscaping along the perimeter, subtly screening neighbouring properties (and ensuring their privacy) with climbing ficus trees.
In keeping with the principles taken from the Stahl House and the ground-breaking Los Angeles Case Study Houses, which were built between 1945 and 1966, the generous allocation of outdoor space maximises the potential of the liveable climate, reconnecting contemporary LA architecture with a somewhat lost aspect of its modernist heritage.
“Relatively new to LA, the opportunity to work on a project in eye-shot of the iconic Stahl house was a privilege we weren’t going to take for granted.”
Director at SAOTA