Residential Design

VOL3 2019

A business-to-business magazine focused on the collaborative process and talented work of residential architects and custom homebuilders.

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There's no denying it's frightening to build in certain areas of California these days. Fires, floods, earthquakes, and mudslides are just a few weapons in nature's arsenal facing architects, builders, and homeowners. Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects took on these challenges and more when they set out to design House Noir on an oceanfront site in Malibu— one of the last with such close proximity to the water. Architects and builders talk about "unbuildable sites," and often they just mean difficult sites that add complexity and cost to design and construction. This one, however, was truly unbuildable, given current building restrictions, rising tides, and potential damage caused by wave thrusts. Howev- er, Lorcan was motivated to find solutions to these and other obstacles in part because the project was for a close friend. But it also resonated with him because a previous house he did in Malibu launched his career as an independent architect. It was the 1980s and Lorcan was fresh from stints working on important buildings for Steven Holl and I.M. Pei (includ- ing the addition to the Louvre Museum), when his parents approached him to design a house for them. "I'm forever grateful for that," he recalls. "My parents said, 'OK, here's an opportunity, now show us what you can do.' The house got published in Architectural Record and really gave me my start. Houses are very important to me. They're an opportuni- ty to invent and to speculate." Surveying the firm's portfolio since then, it's obvious that invention and speculation are at play at every building scale. Custom residential is one component, but at the opposite end of the spectrum are the firm's contributions to social hous- ing, civic and cultural buildings, and an array of commercial work. Some projects hit on multiple building types, too, with the added layers of adaptive reuse and renovation. What distinguishes LOHA's body of work is not just its architectural excellence, but that it soars so high despite multiple impediments to its success. Problem sites are not a rare occur- rence but a common given condition for most projects the firm takes on. So, too, are building restrictions, neighborhood con- straints, and a host of other hurdles that could fell a lesser firm. This page and opposite page: Tapping strategic variances from the building department and the firm's renowned architectural ingenuity, LOHA squeezed a resilient two-bedroom-plus-loft house onto this "unbuildable," missing-tooth lot along the Malibu coastline. 46 RESIDENTIALDESIGNMAGA ZINE.COM VOL. 3, 2019 CASE STUDY

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