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05.20.2013
In Construction> Goldstein Entertainment Complex
Nicholson Architects is building a night club tucked under a tennis court overlooking Los Angeles.
Construction under the tennis court.
Kenneth Johansson / Nicholson Architects

James Goldstein, the one-of-a-kind owner of John Lautner’s famous Sheats Goldstein House in Beverly Hills, is building what might be the first ever nightclub under a private tennis court. For code reasons it’s being called a “rec room,” but you get the idea.

The project, which is being designed by LA firm Nicholson Architects, has been in the works for more than a decade, held up by cranky neighbors, challenging codes, and a litany of other reasons. But now it’s starting to become very real.

The beautiful blue hard tennis court itself—with panoramic views of Los Angeles well below—is already done (Goldstein has been using it for about a year already, despite the fact that the glass wall isn’t complete). It is built atop two post-tensioned reinforced concrete slabs with a layer of waterproofing in between. “You can’t have any leaking into the club,” explained firm principal Duncan Nicholson.

 
A maze of post-tension cables and electric conduits beneath the tennis court (left). The finished court backed by an angular retaining wall (right).
 

The court is backed by an angular, board-formed reinforced concrete retaining wall, above which will eventually be built a guest cottage. Underneath is where the action will take place, a spot where Goldstein, known for his partying despite his advanced age, will really bring his adventures to the next level.

Caissons, dug about 50 feet down to bedrock, support the structure. There are two floors of program, including the nightclub and Goldstein’s offices on the first level below the court, and a bar and al fresco kitchen (under a large cantilever) on the bottom level. In front of the kitchen and bar will be a 70-foot-long lap pool and a 120-foot-long lawn, supported atop a reinforced concrete deck backfilled with earth.

A rendering of the entire complex.
 

The post-tensioned concrete supporting the tennis court also forms the roof of the club. It was board formed in repeating angular patterns (there is more concrete at the beam lines, and it thins out at the edges), referencing the iconic Lautner house and opening the space up to views throughout. Nicholson said the angles give the space “a sense of lift.” The curved post-tensioned steel cables were pulled from plastic tubes at just the right time to provide extra tension within the concrete. Floors are made of poured-in-place reinforced concrete. The furniture is also made of custom board-formed concrete, the rhombus-shaped tables are topped with stainless steel, and Goldstein’s own desk cantilevers dramatically from his office wall.

 
One of Goldstein's santilevered desks (left) and the rebar that helps support the concrete structure (right).
 

A glass sound barrier that takes a forty-five degree angle out, and then juts back in—so guests can stand and look out at the majestic views of the city—will keep the noise away from the neighbors. Its angles are supported by bolted stainless steel patch fittings, placed about every five feet so they’re less noticeable.

According to Nicholson, the nightclub/rec room will be completed by the end of the year. Other components, from the guesthouse, to the terrace below, to a sunken theater at the entryway, will follow about every year and a half. Their order hasn’t been finalized, but all should be done in about five to six years.

 
Board-formed concrete inside the night club.
 

“No days go by without my revisiting [the design] and thinking about how [it] could be improved,” explained Goldstein, who noted that many of these uses kept being added even after construction had begun. He meets with Nicholson regularly to bat ideas back and forth. “I’m sure that as time goes on we’ll come up with some other ideas as well,” he added. This process is similar to what Goldstein undertook with Lautner when they rebuilt the Sheats Goldstein House in the 1980s.

Construction of the tennis court and view of surrounding city.
 

“It is challenging on first blush, but if you’re doing it every day you’re taking small steps that leads to a long walk,” said Nicholson. “The answer is always in the problem. You work the problem so hard that it reveals itself after a lot of hard work.” He lauds Goldstein’s vision: “He’s the ultimate perfect client. He’s willing to go to the nth degree to make sure it’s beautiful.”

Nicholson worked with John Lautner from 1989–1994 and says he was Lautner’s last employee. “I hope he would have been delighted with this,” he said. “The tradition is to do your own thing. You’ve got a character flaw if you’re copying.”

Sam Lubell