Harless Residence

The site is located in Manhattan Beach, California, a beachfront community on the western edge of metropolitan Los Angeles. The small, narrow (30' X 52') parcel is located three blocks from the beach in a dense neighborhood of eclectic residential structures, and is served by a small local street to the north and an alley to the south. The site offers views of a collage of roof tops and selective vistas of the Pacific Ocean. The area is in transition, an assemblage of old and new, large and small, stucco, wood and masonry.

The clients requested a residential program of 2,250 square feet for a family of four. The program is organized vertically on three levels, with the main entry, a family room and parking on the ground level, three private bedrooms in the middle, and living, dining and kitchen at the upper levels for the best light and view. Horizontally, spaces open up to the front and rear of the site from a loosely structured service core at the center of the building.

Externally, the building is conceived as an abstraction of neighborhood elements, and orchestrated internally as an experience of the light, view and temperate climate that is the opportunity of life at the beach in Los Angeles.

The street elevations are symmetrical organizations of stucco, glass and concrete block that borrow from the eclectic fabric of the surrounding neighborhood. A steel framed, cantilevered deck adds an element that evokes the image of local fishing piers or the bridge of a ship. This composition of familiar elements is topped by a contrasting, imported object composed of sloping, metal clad planes and a glazed window wall.

The spatial experience unfolds in a deliberate sequence as one moves into the building through a rather modest entry. Movement through the entrance and up the stair reveals a succession of spaces that are progressively more open, dynamic and ever increasing in light and view. The top of the stair is also the spatial highpoint of the building. The living, dining and kitchen are contained below folded roof and wall planes that lean to the north and south to perceptually extend these spaces beyond the physical limits of the site.

Photography: Erhard Pfeiffer