Category: Residential
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Size: 2185 sq. ft.
Masonry Used: 8" CMU - 2084, 12" CMU - 891, 2" VENEER - 665, CAP - 211, LINTEL - 30 , TOTAL = 3881 BURNISHED CMU
Submitted by: Stenfors Associates Architects

Project Description

In 500 words or less, explain the project and its unique use of masonry materials and techniques. : In 1952, a modern residence was founded upon a rugged hillside property in the Mulholland Scenic Corridor of Los Angeles. The original builders brutally carved into bedrock to form a contemporary landscape. Original cement masonry retaining walls created a green plateau.

By 2010, entropy had taken its toll. A 21st century sustainable solution beckoned, one that could enhance and reconfigure the property's intrinsic qualities.

The design approach is anchored by its sustainable development philosophy. Fixer uppers are a far more efficient path to carbon neutrality. Why tear down, transport and recycle when one can recycle in place? We determined that the best portions of the residence and the existing concrete masonry retaining walls should remain.

The house would be renewed and renovated. The existing Black Walnut trees would be preserved. Native drought tolerant plants would be augmented. And with new masonry, the ground planes would be redesigned with a new garage, an infinity pool, new decks, flanking retaining walls and a welcoming new exterior entrance stairway.

The design is conceptually influenced by the masonry of Pre-Columbian architecture where many sites are minimally defined and dictated by the topography and cardinal axes of each location. This early architecture tends to integrate natural features with precisely laid blocks, and upward processional stairways leading to flat ceremonial plains.

In this case the plateau rigorously sets the absolute floor level and entrance to the residence, the edge of the infinity pool and the top of the masonry walls.

Below the plateau level, the minimalism extends with the use of masonry to clad, form and define the surfaces to create a consistent monolithic materiality. In keeping with the modest size of the project, a simple running bond was used to keep attention away from distracting material changes and details. The expert masons built the burnished CMU walls and raked the joints with the acute precision necessary to deliver the concept. Burnished veneers were adhered and anchored to the concrete pool walls and to the wood framed planter walls with equal élan. Burnished caps were used on the walls as careful attention was paid to the integration of the handrail verticals at 64” on-center to match the masonry module.

The new masonry was central in meeting the sustainable goals. Beyond aesthetics the CMU was selected for its recycled content, integral finish, ability to withstand earthquakes as well as superior protection against the perilous wildfires of southern California.

As a counterpoint to the high-tech aluminum and glazed detailing of the residence, the burnished masonry rises from the earth to shine and to expose its warm natural aggregate with a rich depth of color. The durable nature of the masonry will easily carry the residence into the 22nd century and hopefully beyond.

Project Participants

Architect / Designer's Name: Jeffrey Stenfors
Company: Stenfors Associates Architects
Phone: (323) 951-0300

Structural Engineer' s Name: Russell Tanouye
Company: Englekirk Partners
Phone: (323) 733-2640

General Contractor
Company: Stenfors Associates
Phone: (323) 951-0300

Masonry Contractor
Company: Desert Hills Engineering
Phone: (661) 251-6800

Masonry Supplier
Company: Angelus Block Company, Inc.
Phone: (818) 767-8576

Landscape Architect
Company: Gaudet Design Group Landscape Architecture
Phone: (310) 828-4908
Company: Stirling Pools
Phone: (805) 391-6995