Design, What's Up
June 10, 2011
Architect James Meyer is the founder of Los Angeles based design/build firm LeanArch and the fourth in our POV interviews.
1. You’ve talked about being inspired by the Eames House in your designs. What do you think makes a house feel like a home?
I often promote the idea that the home is the last remaining piece of personal expression left in most people’s lives. Nowadays, we are completely surrounded with products, goods and technology which are designed by others and tailor made to meet the needs of our consumer-driven culture. The cars we drive, the mobile phones we use.
The companies who make these products are constantly trying to demonstrate how they are able to be customized to meet the personal tastes of their potential customers. The fact is, that these items, along with most everything else, are extremely limited when it comes to personalization.
The home is really the last place where one can truly be expressive of their personal tastes, and, as we know, the opportunities are somewhat limitless… This is why we take great care to work closely with our clients to help them define what it is they are ultimately looking for, and to develop a design which will best reflect those desires.
Visit Lifework for the entire conversation with James Meyer.
June 3, 2011
The Prefab house deisgned by Marmol and Raziner for a remote site in Moab, Utah. Photo: Joe Fletcher
We spoke with Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner for part three of Herman Miller’s POV interview series.
Can you tell us how you both got involved in designing pre-fab homes?
We had incorporated prefabricated modular buildings into a few of our projects in the late 1990s, including a two-story classroom module as part of The Accelerated School in South Los Angeles in 1997, and four-module childcare center for the Los Angeles Airport in 1999. So in 2003, when Dwell magazine asked our firm to participate in a prefab design competition, it seemed like a natural opportunity to continue what we had started.
The competition sparked our interest in the greater possibilities of designing high-end modern homes within the constraints of a factory. We were exploring ways to minimize the inefficiencies involved with site-built construction, including weather delays, sub-contractor delays, runaway costs and excessive material waste, and prefab seemed as if it might provide some solutions
Since our prefab prototype the Desert House in 2005, we have developed our modular system and completed houses in Utah, Nevada, and throughout California. Our project in Moab, UT was on a particularly remote site and in that way was especially suited for modular prefab. Transportation of labor and materials alone would have made for extremely high on-site construction costs. Further, the modules were installed less than 12 months from the very first site visit, meaning design and construction were able to be completed in less than a year. It was an extraordinary case study for how prefab could significantly improve efficiency and reduce costs for the right project.
Visit Lifework for more of our interview with Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner.
May 24, 2011
This is the second in our POV interviews. Last week we talked to Jim Jennings and this week we chat with John Friedman. JFAK is an LA-based architectural practice run by Friedman and his wife Alice Kimm. The two architects met in grad school and moved to Los Angeles for work.They created JFAK in 1996 with the shared idea that good architecture has the power to dramatically affect people’s lives. Today three kids and a thriving practice keep them very busy so we were thrilled that Friedman took time to sit down with us and talk about their work.
You talk about architecture as a puzzle. Do you find there is a language that threads through all your work that helps you solve that design puzzle?
Every project comes with a specific set of opportunities and constraints – in the form of the site (physical and cultural), the program, the budget, and issues that the client may bring to the table, etc. As a functional art, one of the pleasures of the architectural design process is to mold space and material into dynamic environments that solve the puzzle of these various requirements. But of course there is nothing objective about this – the result always reflects the designer’s particular interests, obsessions, and worldview. For me (and this is probably true of my partner, Alice Kimm, as well) this always involves the creation of sculptural forms, interiors that are filled with natural light (often from unexpected sources), the blurring of interior and exterior spaces, and circulation routes that take you through a collection of interlocking interior spaces. What often makes these spaces interesting and dynamic is that they are linked along an implied diagonal, and this further creates surprising views through and across space. The Ehrlich house (above), a house we did before the King house (pictured below), is a good example of this.
Visit Lifework for more of John Friedman’a interview.
Design, What's Up
May 17, 2011
The recent launch of our online store offered up the unique opportunity to shoot Herman Miller designs in iconic homes. Working closely with Hello Design and photographer Juergen Nogai (who was the late Julius Shulman’s longtime partner) Herman Miller’s Steve Frykholm set out to showcase our pieces in some pretty amazing settings. This is the first of five interviews with the architects who designed the houses we shot in. All reside in California and each has an interesting and unique story to tell.
We start with Jim Jennings who founded his practice in 1975. When interviewed by Architectural Digest for their top 100 designers list Jenkins said of his work, “it always begins with the site and with the clues and conditions found there. Each physical circumstance suggests a particular expression of scale, space and material. For me, a great building is one that is both rational and poetic—and projects a quiet strength.” For more from Jim and shots from the shoot check out our POV site.
Your recent work spans so many climates – with the retreat you designed for yourself in Palm Springs and a house on the beach in Oahu. Yet even with the very different terrains I see a common language in your forms. There’s a strong horizontal quality to your work and a use of sliding walls, screens or open rectangular spaces that engage with the outdoors. What drives those design decisions?
The two houses (Lanikai and Palm Springs) illustrate a similar approach to architectural form. They are both rectilinear in composition with strong hovering roof planes. Both have walls that open large areas of interior space to the outside Both respond to the need for shade and the free movement of air. Although the formal aspects of each building link them, each is conceptually grounded in its very specific place with opposing site conditions.
The Lanikai house is designed to block heavy ocean breezes, which is why it stretches the entire width of the site. Glass doors will stop a strong wind but can be pocketed to modulate airflow. Teak lattices can be positioned to provide protection from the sun without interrupting moving air or visibility. The house is permeable.
The Palm Springs house is the opposite. It is a walled enclosure that is inwardly focused, protective, self-contained. The surrounding wall is designed to create an environment that relates only to itself and the nearby mountain that dominates the view. When the glass doors are opened, the house becomes the entire space inside the wall.
See Lifework for more of Jim Jennings’ interview.