Tag Archives: modernism

Reiner-Burchill Residence — SILVERTOP — Lautner’s Domestic Spaceship for Modern Terrestrials

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2138 Micheltorena St, Silver Lake 90039 – “The Reiner-Burchill Residence” (Silvertop), John Lautner, architect, Construction: 1956-1976 – Built for Ken Reiner, Sold 1974 to The Burchills, For Sale 2014 at $7,500,000

Silvertop — the Reiner-Burchill Residence — was originally commissioned in 1956 by Kenneth Reiner, an entrepreneur who became wealthy with industrial designs for a spring-loaded ladies hair clip and a self-locking lightweight aircraft nut. “Silvertop” is named for its expansive concrete domed ceiling over the living area, which seems to rest on walls of glass, as it peers down upon the Silver Lake Reservoir.

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Focused on technology and engineering, Reiner and Lautner made excellent collaborators. The two set out to accomplish an advanced home design, featuring faucet-less sinks that automatically filled with water, a dining table with a hydraulic pedestal that lowered for cocktails and elevated for meals, a system for heating and cooling that could not be seen or heard (Reiner wanted to feel only the ambient temperatures rise or fall), controls for lights and appliances that were discreetly set into walls and doors jambs, lights that pivot into the ceiling, and electrically-controlled skylights.

Lautner built such novel innovations into the home specifically according to Reiner’s specifications; in the event that the equipment didn’t exist to meet those specifications, Reiner would design, engineer, and manufacturer the necessary parts in his own factory for Lautner.

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The two men brought in master structural engineer, Eugene Birnbaum to execute the challenging build with a cantilevered driveway up to the residence and a massive concrete domed ceiling over walls of glass that are slotted into concrete. The City of Los Angeles’ building codes couldn’t keep up with Lautner and Reiner, and the city denied permits for the cantilevered drive… until both men created irrefutable engineering plans and constructed a demonstration project.

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The home was originally budgeted at $75,000, but rose to $1,000,000 after many refinements of the design throughout its build. Unfortunately, Reiner never lived in his wondrous home. Due to a lawsuit with his business partner and a divorce, Reiner filed bankruptcy and lost the nearly finished house. The project then sat for several years, while Reiner moved to Long Beach. Associates said the pragmatic Reiner never looked back with regret.

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Dr. Philip and Jacklyn Burchill bought the home in 1974. The Burchill’s turned to Lautner to complete the home. The Reiner-Burchill Residence was finally realized in 1976, when the Burchill’s became live-in stewards of the architectural phenomenon until 2014. Mrs. Burchill has decided to sell the home she has maintained with stewardship toward authenticity for 40 years.

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The Reiner-Burchill Residence is located at 2138 Micheltorena St in the Moreno Highlands area of Silver Lake and is being offered for $7,500,000.

The 3 bedroom and 4 bathroom design of the main house is made up of a series of interlocking circles, half-circles and ellipsis, creating geometric pattern for which Lautner was known. The infinity pool, a first of its kind, mimics the shape of the roof line. With a massive, arched concrete roof over the living area, the spacious 4,721 of interior living space with floor-to-ceiling glass walls, in proportion to the site on which it is built. “Silvertop” situates on 1.26 acres, comprised of six lots, on the crest of a hill. The home is approached by vehicle up one side of the hill and is exited down the other side of the hill via the cantilevered curved concrete driveway that wraps around a circular guest house, called the Round House, which contains a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and a photography darkroom.

The home consists of three general areas including the living area, sleeping quarters and guest house. From the entry, one passes through an atrium filled with plants and before entering into the expansive light-filled open living space. The sleeping quarters are located somewhat perpendicular to the living area as it bows away from the central living area.

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Sculptor’s Outstanding Mid-Century-Modern Exemplar Awaits in Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills, CA 90210

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Mid-Century architectural exemplar in Beverly Hills recently came on the market and was designed by sculptor Morris Levine as his personal residence in 1964. According to a 2006 LA Times article, Levine received no formal architectural training, yet designed “at least half a dozen apartment buildings in Southern California,” as well as two churches on an island in the South Pacific where he was stationed during World War II.

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The artist lived for forty years in his custom-built Beverly Hills home and passed away in 2004 at age 90. Set on a large, private lot, this hidden 3,480-square-foot retreat lists many original details including terrazzo floors, milled cedar ceilings and walls, custom storage, an open family room, 4 Bedrooms, 4 baths, plus a home office (or 5th bedroom) with a separate entrance, with a large, solar-heated swimmer’s pool, and a landscaped back yard. Great location convenient to downtown Beverly Hills and the Valley. It’s a museum-quality home for the architectural enthusiast.

Want it? $3.25 million.

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Bob Hope Residence, Palm Springs — A John Lautner Masterpiece (Revisited)

In March last year, I posted about Bob Hope’s huge and famous hill-top house located in Palm Springs Southridge mountain area, overlooking Palm Springs. The Hopes were known for their lavish parties with hundreds of attendees, but even so, they never allowed interior photos to be published, as this was their private enclave.

Hope’s daughter is now liquidating the estate, and this nearly 18,000 sq ft (add nearly 5k more sq ft for terraces and outdoor living space) John Lautner-designed Bob and Dolores Hope Residence (1973) went on market for sale… at $50 million… and was recently reduced in price to $34 million.

As part of the selling process, a few shots of the interior were published in the informational brochure. So, now we get to see just a bit…

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Ettley Residence — Modernism Taken To Its Beautiful Conclusion

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The Ettley residence, in Los Angeles CA, is a study in solid-void relationships. The design is an example I often cite as the proper answer to modernism’s logical conclusion, as opposed to the vapid white box of too many designers and architects. For while the design does eliminate superfluous elements of “styling” and ornamentation, this home deftly blends material, texture, and color to stimulate visually and avoid the dullsville of the blank white facade.

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The Aluminum and wood enclosure/awning over the blue glass — appearing like blocks of frozen blue Pacific ocean — juxtapose against the solid wood boxes, giving an appearance of a modern seaside sculpture. Situated a few blocks from the ocean, the up-sloping lot provides commanding views of the water while providing a cityscape foreground to the setting. The master suite located at the mid level front has a glass floor seating area that overlooks a reflecting pond and garden below.

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A vertical bamboo garden is surrounded by horizontal wood slats continuing up through the structure and providing privacy to the master and the main living spaces at the top level.

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Studio 9one2 has become known for it’s particularly interesting staircases, with the majority of beach houses in the LA area designed as inverted plans with the living spaces at the top level in order to achieve the best ocean views. As a result, both visitors and occupants alike utilize the stair system quite often. Studio 9one2 always strives to make those normally mundane trips into sculptural experiences. This home with its “Esher-esque” stairs and glass floor landings continues their trend.

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Your 1957 Dream House Made Real — Alcoa “Care-Free” Home

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In January 1957 the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) announced the formation of a “Residential Building Products Sales Division” to facilitate expansion into new uses for aluminum in home-building. U.S. Steel similarly explored modern home architecture in California’s famous Case Study House Program. To jump-start sales in this new division, Alcoa announced they would be sponsoring the construction of 50 “Care-Free” aluminum model homes priced under $25,000. The company’s stated aim was to create a lower maintenance home and achieve the “greatest change in residential building materials in centuries.”

Alcoa hired east-coast architect Charles M. Goodman to design the “Care-Free” home; the standard model was post and beam construction with 1,900 square feet of living space, including 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. The design integrated 7,500 lbs of colorful aluminum details throughout the house, including large aluminum framed windows and its signature purple siding and blue window grilles.

By the end of 1957, approximately 24 of the Alcoa “Care-Free” homes were completed across the US. Unfortunately for Alcoa, they never made it to the planned 50 model homes; U.S. Steel’s house program met a similar fate, and as with U.S. Steel, the final cost of these aluminum homes was much higher than anticipated, nearly twice as much.

Still, these beautiful homes make excellent examples of the future-oriented, innovative approaches to home development sought in the post-world-war years. For modernists, they are fetching eye candy.

A Resurrected Classic Alcoa Care-Free Home

Steven Plouffe and Michael Linsner have kept the original purple color on the outside of their Alcoa Care-free Home by Charles Goodman near Rochester, NY. Designed by architect Charles Goodman, it was built in 1957 by Fred P. DeBlase.

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Alcoa Presents “Care-Free Home”

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The Original “Care-Free Home”

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Care-Free Home Architect, Charles M. Goodman

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Additional Information and Sources:

The complete Alcoa Care-Free Home sales brochure can be seen here

For The Better Homes and Gardens article on the Alcoa homes click here

More photos by the current owners of the Brighton, NY home can be seen here

Follow the St. Louis Park home renovations on Our Care-Free Home

For a St Louis Park Historical Society article on the Alcoa aluminum house click here

For images and information on another Alcoa home located in Perrysburg, OH click here

For various old newspaper articles about the Alcoa Care-Free project click here

For more on architect Charles M Goodman click here and here

For the Charles M Goodman Flickr group click here


Villa L, Utrecht Netherlands — Paradox Of United Diversity

A Stunningly Fresh Take On Modernism By Powerhouse Company & RAU

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Villa L is a spatially diverse residence where every floor has its own strong identity, creating a broad spatial scope within a unified whole —  three floors, three unique environments (of which one is below ground and yet exposed with significant window glazing).

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Powerhouse Company, in collaboration with RAU, recently completed Villa L. Designed to the desires and needs of a young — and very fortunate — family, Villa L is set in the woods of central Netherlands, fully oriented towards the sun and garden views, and features green building strategies including hot and cold-water storage and hidden photovoltaic cells.

The ground floor, occupied by living and dining rooms, is partially covered by a green roof which also acts as a garden for the bedrooms upstairs. In contrast to the brightness and transparency of the ground floor, with its glossy travertine and mirrored glass, the top floor exterior walls are covered with dark-stained wood to suggest a more private atmosphere.

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Main level is for living, with an open ground floor. A strip of service rooms containing storage, toilets and stairs, provides easy access to the elegantly open living spaces. The kitchen and the living room are oriented to best utilize natural light and provide views of the garden. Two studies are located near the living area, on the north side next to the entrance. The “cabins” on the second floor are surrounded by the roof garden that appears as an extension of the surrounding forest.

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The upper level of Villa L was conceived as a “village of cabins” – a cluster of intimate and private dark-stained-wood detached volumes that follow a different outline compared to the ground floor. Each ‘cabin” room provides its own private views over the wooded landscape. In order to achieve this affect, architects developed a complex steel frame that surrounds the volumes. An 11-meter steel cantilever supports the structure – although it’s completely hidden from view.

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The curvaceous subterranean level is for guests, fitness, pool, storage, and cars. The unique excavations along three parts of the below-ground level allow the pool and the guest rooms to have fully glazed facades and direct access to the garden, while the remaining offers access for cars. All the high-end energy-saving systems are situated in the subterranean level, as well.

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Heavy Metal House: Channeling Richard Neutra & Cliff May

Architect: Hufft Projects
Location: Joplin, MO, USA
Principals in Charge: Matthew Hufft, Kimball Hales
Design Team: Dan Brown, Adam Crowley, Jonathan Tramba
Area: 6,800 sqm
Completion: July 2010

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This steel and concrete home relates so well to the low-slung, horizontal idiom of Richard Neutra coupled with the rough-hewn, natural texture of Cliff May…

Heavy Metal draws its name, and it’s straight forward industrial aesthetic, from the custom perforated steel panels which form the envelope of the residence. More than 200 in total, each panel has a unique set of perforations based on a simple set of programmatic responses to interior and exterior conditions, which are scrutinized to determine where privacy (opacity) is most critical and where openness (transparency) is desired… generating the residence’s signature façades.

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Heavy Metal’s plan is a variation on a traditional courtyard, with a large outdoor space bound on two sides by the steel and glass façade, via Neutra. The central living/dining area acts as the heart of the residence, with its increased ceiling height and warm walnut ceilings.

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This central space is flanked by two wings containing guest bedrooms and the master suite, respectively, which act to define the edges of the private courtyard retreat, while a large photo studio anchors the transition between the three main spaces, completing the L-shaped plan. The lightness of Heavy Metal’s perforated exterior steel skin in conjunction with the monolithic concrete walls, exposed structural steel, warm rich walnut, and large expanses of glass give the home a distinctively classic modernist character.

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