While curmudgeonly critics lament the return of pomo styling in architecture schools, it can be easy to forget that in Los Angeles, few architectural modes ever go fully out of style. A case in point is the Birch Residence, designed by Griffin Enright Architects (GEA), which was not specifically conceived as a deconstructivist work, but bears the movement’s expansive and explosive feel.
From the street, the home’s erupting components—smooth white stucco boxes, projecting and frameless windows, and a central light well—stand out amid the surrounding suburban tract houses. Though situated on a mostly flat site, the main level, containing entertainment-focused kitchen and living areas, is elevated several steps above grade due to an underground garage. As a result, the home spreads from setback to setback, allowing for inventive uses of the tight urban lot.
The home’s boxy volumes push and pull against a jagged two-story skylight that runs through the center of the building and divides its constituent parts with glass, steel, and freeform refractive panels. The slinking, canted skylight is topped with an angular shade designed to track the sun from east to west on its daily journey. A clear glass bridge bisects the light well, providing access between the two bedroom wings on the second floor. Below, splayed living spaces and a sculptural stair further accentuate the light well’s vertical orientation.
According to Margaret Griffin, principal at GEA, the skylight “brings a seasonal component to the house” while also creating a promontory from which to catch views of the nearby Hollywood sign.
The skylight, a tour de force of structural engineering, construction detailing, and exacting handiwork, folds down over the back facade of the house, where a single sheet of canted glass meets a polished travertine floor that spills out onto a backyard patio and reflecting pool.
“We try to bring particular innovations that transform the way people live,” said Griffin, explaining the dark-colored paneling that wraps the living room ceiling as well as the main kitchen areas. “We realized that a dark ceiling makes space feel bigger than it really is, so one plane is darker to give a greater depth of space as well as a more expansive feeling to the home.”