Jesse Bornstein Architecture
Santa Monica / USA, 2001
The treehouse project is a model of site-specific infill set in a hillside urban neighborhood. The new residence shares a 50-by-160-foot parallelogram-shaped lot with an existing front house. An existing 10-foot tall retaining wall runs the width of the property.
Cut off from the rest of the property by the retaining wall, the rear third of the lot had lay fallow. A mature Chinese Elm tree stands at the southerly base of the retaining wall. While tailored to the programmatic requirements of the client, namely the architect, his wife and their two young daughters, the project design is primarily a response to specific site conditions.
The existing front house was originally a gable-roofed painted wood and stucco box built in the 1950’s. An extensive renovation and second-story addition by the architect refined the original house while maintaining its traditional form and ubiquitous palette of materials.
In contrast, the design of the rear house refers to the mid-twentieth century California modern architectural tradition. Parallel histories are set in formal dialogue between the modern rear house and the traditional front house. Reinforcing the dialogue, the rear house studio is nestled into the gable roof of the front house garage.
Roof planes step up the sloped site providing city and mountain views from multiple levels. Walls and fenestration subtly shift - in reference to the non-orthogonal site - to maintain privacy and control views between neighboring structures.
The design exploits a long-view corridor along the driveway between the front house and an adjacent apartment building. Views of a neighborhood park, a block away, are captured between apartment buildings to the north and rear.