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To Catch a Curve
For these new interiors, right angles are a no go. Combining California designers' love of the natural and the digital, architects are testing the boundaries of the state's interior spaces. Sam Lubell steps inside for a closer look.
The Conga Room by Belzberg Architects
Hagy Belzberg

In their interiors work, many California architects, rebelling against the purity and rectilinear lines brought on by modernism’s return to the mainstream, are instead throwing curves. This isn’t merely a stylistic change.

It’s also a result of new materials, new construction techniques, and the maturation of computer technologies (many of them pioneered by West Coast architects like Greg Lynn) that allow for more adventuresome milling, glass fabrication, and steel work. As one of the practitioners, Thom Faulders, points out, the technology has matured to the point that just using it is no longer enough to impress.

Not that it’s simple to create these sophisticated, loopy forms. For his Deformhouse in San Francisco, Faulders had to work with a separate firm that specialized in computer milling, and other firms run up against other challenges.

“It’s expensive,” said Alice Kimm of John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects, who recently completed a curvy renovation of the Graduate Aerospace labs at Caltech. “You have to
mix the computer-created forms with some traditional techniques,” such as “tweaked” drywall and conventional framing and carpentry.

But according to architect Patrick Tighe, the price has come down significantly in recent years, and the number of contractors who can carry off more freeform work has risen dramatically. Kimm agrees, pointing out that while contractors used to run from such projects, they rushed to outbid each other for her complicated Caltech job.

Here, then, are some of the grooviest and curviest explorations into this new freeform frontier.

Belzberg Architects: Conga Room, Los Angeles

John Friedman Alice Kimm:
Graduate Aerospace Laboratories, Pasedena

Thom Faulders:
Deformhouse, San Francisco

Tighe Architecture:
Moving Picture Company, Santa Monica


Sam Lubell