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House in Los Angeles 5

The Los Angeles Design Group

Los Angeles, CA, United States

February 2022


Claus Benjamin Freyinger (co-Principal), Andrew Holder (co-Principal)


Remi McClain (Design Lead), Kenji Hattori-Forth (Project Designer), Jonathan Reike (Project Designer), Son Vu (Project Designer)


Danielle Rago


Marten Elder


In order to make the house permeable, we organized it around two walks, each more than three feet wide. On the long axis, a concrete path begins at the sidewalk, then runs through the house and out the back door to the rear lot line. On the short axis, a matching walk cuts through from the driveway to the side yard. The intersection of these two marks the corner of a double-height space that contains the kitchen and seating area. It is the primary gathering spot, but also the building’s primary thermodynamic mechanism. Heated by sun through clerestory windows, air moves up and out the top of this volume, creating a stack effect that draws from the four door openings at the ends of the walks. Effectively a hearth that cools instead of heating, it gathers visitors analogous to the way it gathers air: drawing from front and back, left and right toward the center.

The program of the house is organized in zones around this central crossing. At the front of the house, two volumes filled with bedrooms flank the long axis. With punched door and window openings, these are effectively separate pavilions that happen to share a roof with the rest of the building. In the middle, solid blocks paneled in OSB house appliances and mechanical equipment. At the rear, L- and C-shaped walls loosely bracket living space against the more solid objects that house programs nearer the front.


House in Los Angeles 5 sits in the Larchmont Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, nearly midway between the ocean and downtown. It is a region characterized by an almost uniform distribution of single-family homes. Both the neighborhood and the housing type characterize a kind of middle-class dream literally responsible for the construction of LA in the first half of the 20th century: a place of one’s own in a tidy patchwork of others’ with theirs. House 5 replaces an existing 1958 American four-square house in poor repair, making both the literal and figurative challenge to invent the replacement for a dream from that era. Our clients do not see themselves as equivalent to the definition of a family of that time. They are nuclear in configuration, but are not hierarchically structured by gender, nor did they want a detached house as a means of withdrawing from urbanity. To them, the project of the house was to be a place of gathering. It needed to perform as such, deeply permeable from the frontmost points of arrival to the larger spaces near the back of the lot where colleagues, friends, and family can convene.


House 5 rarely uses mechanical heating or cooling. As the temperature rises, the stack effect of the central volume becomes more effective, while on cooler days the thick plenum of the wedge-shaped roofs super-insulate to retain heat. There is a similar shift in the location of social life. Although the central volume gathers – and remains a visual target when seen from at entries from the front and back – people convene in spaces lodged through the envelope at the rear margin of the house. A long projection of the living room roof, for instance, shades the pool and claims it as a part of the interior, confirmed by a column planted in the water. Conversely, a 6’ square window at the living room opens fully so people can pull themselves from the pool, step up the shallow sill, and sit back, still dripping, on the couch.

Despite challenging the conventions of the single-family home, the building’s exterior is designed to be a good neighbor, iconographically speaking. On the south and rear elevations, the assemblies of super-scaled parts add up to the familiar pitched roof. The basic distributions of yards are retained, along with the front walk, even if these elements are now joined and extended into the house in unfamiliar ways. The entry is no longer a door, but rather a tube that transmits the back elevation up to the very front. At back, deep projections of the roof and incursions of vestibules make living a continual transit of the envelope.

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