As part of our continuing architect Q+A series we tracked down DEX Studio‘s principal Glen Bell. Here he talks about his residential and commercial work and the impact growing up in Los Angeles has had on his work. Bell’s Redcliff Residence (above) was part of the recent Dwell on Design house tours.
You opened your own Venice, CA-based design practice, DEX Studio in 1999 after you graduated from with a degree in architecture from USC. How do you think being based in California has influenced your work? Growing up in California has had a tremendous impact on my design approach. My earliest memories are of my home life around a large patio, a pool, and a yard full of fruit trees.
This connection between interior and exterior spaces continued throughout grade and high school. The school I attended had a campus designed in part by A. Quincy Jones. The grounds were a series of spaces that were centered around small courtyards. The post and beam architecture included vast walls of glass and flat roofs nestled within eucalyptus trees. To this day, my designwork centers around connecting interior and exterior spaces. This sensibility has developed into a philosophy of interacting with the environment through designed forms. My schooling at USC focused on finding ways to define shelter and its interaction with the environment. This includes using natural elements around a site to inform, animate, and provide comfort for the user.
The Redcliff Residence was designed for John Shields. a concept site planner for theme parks and his partner, artist/illustrator Nat Reed. The property is steeply sloping with Nat’s studio at street level and the more private sections of the house travelling up the hill. How did the sloping sight effect your design? The site offered an opportunity to maximize desirable views and bring in a better quality of light for the owner. The existing home had all of the elements of a modern design including a minimal geometry and extensive use of glass. Unfortunately, the two buildings were originally sited to maximize the square footage, not to create the best space for the home-owner. In addition, the existing windows let in too much heat, glaring light, and unattractive views of neighboring houses. These factors made the program more complex and rich. It developed in a way to use the whole site to connect a series of outdoor spaces with the existing and remodeled architecture. We took advantage of the topography of the site to highlight the best city and neighborhood views, while screening less attractive areas.
We implemented overhangs and operable glazing to reduce the heat load and glare on the interior space. We then provided a passive cooling system to draw airflow up from the lower spaces of the house into the second floor, thereby cooling the entire house. The owner’s landscape design softens the geometry of the architectural elements through animated movement of leaves, plants, and flowers. Inside the home, no two rooms are alike in view, light quality, or orientation. You are compelled to move from space to space throughout the day to take advantage of what each space has to offer.
Was there a conscious decision to separate the live and work spaces on the property? The accessory space on site helped the decision to keep the scale of the house modest and to separate the uses between work and live. The distinction is made more clear when you leave the home and travel through a landscaped walkway to get to the work studio at a lower elevation. It’s not a bad commute.
How does the use of texture in this home – with its detailed exterior screens, timber-lined internal walls connect to your larger body of work? I always work with texture. We prefer working with natural materials that express an honesty and quality through their imperfect attributes.