R1. new construction house. highland park, los angeles. 2016-2022.



Fifty by fifty-foot corner hillside lot that was cut 1946 April 19 right before a new Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance was enacted that made the lot sub-standard because of its small size. The lot remained undeveloped until we constructed this 861sf square foot two story residence with a 670sf basement.  The zoning requirements at the time of plan check submittal required a 22’-10” front yard, a 15’0” back yard, 6’-0” foot side yards and a 10’ wide driveway easement for the neighbor, - yielding a narrow 12’-2” x 34’-0” maximum build-able footprint that no one wanted.


Two covered parking spaces are required for every new home in the city of LA, and they are not allowed to be located in the front yard or rear yard within ten feet of the main structure, so we were forced to dig a submerged garage, and use concrete construction for the base. This concrete construction is expressed inside the first floor with the exposed concrete floor finish, and the upturned cast concrete beam that serves as seating in the living room. With the uphill slope of the site we were able to create a large rear yard patio on level with the first floor kitchen living room. We oriented the kitchen living room towards this back patio in order to expand the small interior space outdoors through the large accordion door. The interior stair has storage integrated below, above, and in its sides. The stair switchbacks up and cantilevers over the neighbors driveway easement to maximize the 2nd floor footprint, which is bigger than the 1st floor. Above the stairs is a half height platform for roof access, with storage integrated into the roof access steps. Cabinets are integrated into the hallway, which is naturally lit by a series of casement windows oriented to the north east. The 2nd floor bedroom is a large open space that can be divided into two bedrooms. The main bedroom window is oriented to the center of the front yard cork oak tree, which provides afternoon shade for the front facade.


The project was conceived of, and designed together with Michael Tessler of Responsive Homes. The project is intended to be a prototype for a climate responsive home in Los Angeles. The design is informed by the sun and wind, and the materials are local, durable, renewable, and non-toxic. The interior walls are natural clay plaster that do not require petrochemical paints. The exterior base is natural hydraulic lime plaster, as is the upstairs shower with a traditional tadelakt finish. The facades are clad in 2” thick thermacork ship-lap panels, with no visible fasteners - this is a natural renewable material that has high insulating value, and a beautiful bark-like color that blends in wonderfully with the front yard cork oak tree and the hillside. The floors, doors, frames, and casework are made with fallen local California Sycamore and Ash trees salvaged and milled by Angel City Lumber.  The countertops are terrazzo made with aggregates retrieved from the Los Angeles River.


Structural Engineer: Parker Resnick

General Contractor: Salt Mine, Corey Ruppert

Select Design Drawings & Construction Photos