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10.29.2008
House of the Issue: Belzberg Architects
Hagy Belzberg's Skyline residence combines cinematic appeal and environmental savvy
Clockwise from top: Inside the entrance wedge; dynamic geometries in a hallway; the house entrance.
Benny Chan

One of the biggest challenges for architect Hagy Belzberg in creating his Skyline residence in Laurel Canyon was getting permission to build. It took him two years and several public meetings to convince officials at the Mulholland Scenic Corridor to allow him to site his home on a thin ridgeline with panoramic views that include Downtown Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, and even the Pacific Ocean. But it was worth the effort.

After securing the site, Belzberg was able to create a budget and eco-conscious home for his family of four that maximized the location’s breathtaking views and comfortable breezes from the west while minimizing sun glare. The keys to both limiting and profiting from the elements are two structures to the south: a large, folded concrete armature and a screen made of long, thin, pressure-treated wood panels (which allows air to penetrate the house) in front of a translucent fiberglass screen. Hence the dramatic living room, which has floor-to-ceiling fritted glass on three sides and looks down on the rocky canyons below. The room receives no direct sunlight, nor does the wide open kitchen and adjoining entertainment room, from where a long row of windows looks over the landscape abutting the house, containing a thin pool edged up against a sheer drop. Three bedrooms provide uninterrupted views and direct access to the pool area. Spaces that don’t “require” views, like bathrooms and closets, are located along a long core in the house’s center.

The simple home—both the main house and the guest house are enclosed by a single folded surface with infill glazing—was built by younger associates at Belzberg’s firm, serving as a valuable training tool. The crew, who stabilized the house by digging 22-foot piles, was able to create a house that is naturally green while using inexpensive, low-tech materials like storefront windows and off-the-shelf parts that kept costs to a minimum.


All images: Benny Chan
 
 


THE SOUTH FACADE WITH BAFFLING SCREEN (TOP); The guesthouse is positioned west of the main house (middle); and the house's cinematic courtyard (ABOVE).
 
Sam Lubell