Strata House

Bel-Air, California

Strata House

Situated on a Bel-Air hilltop with expansive, 270-degree, views of the Los Angeles Basin, this new, three-level home, was designed as a substantial renovation and addition to a previously existing residence, creating a respectful contrasting backdrop to the original architecture, while doubling the existing floor area.

The design ethos for this project was to reinforce the notion that the site has been developed over time by multiple owners, each carefully adding their own interpretation and meaning to the property, resulting in individual layers, or strata. The strata are evident by the use of different materials and by how the building interacts with the site. They form a visual history of the project, its past and current owners, and the changing nature of the use of this spectacular site over time.

The first stratum, a stone plinth that descends along the slope, grounds the lowest level of the house onto its rocky site. The layout roughly follows the outline of the original 1950s home of Zsa-Zsa Gabor which was destroyed in the Bel Air fire of 1961. A new, generous seating area, centered on a fire pit, cabana, and swimming pool rendered as a cube of continually overflowing water, completes the descending composition.

The main floor level above the stone plinth represents the second layer of the project. A modern residence designed in 1968 by noted Canadian architect John B. Parkin for his own family, the volumes were rendered in white plaster and glass. In its reimagined configuration, the white plaster sections house the public functions of the new home, including a screening room, bar, dining, kitchen, family rooms, and garage. The signature element on this level is the original living room pavilion. Clad in glass on all four sides to offer unobstructed views of the expansive step-down terraces, and the L.A. basin beyond, the pavilion sits proudly and forms the focal point of the entire ensemble.

Inspired by the current owners’ own sophisticated and elegant fashion esthetic, we designed this third stratum as a complementary background to the living room pavilion, and dressed it in bespoke charred wood siding using the Japanese shou-sugi-ban technique. This upper level addition houses the private functions of the home, including a library, multiple bedrooms and a tucked-away home office that includes its own, cloistered, sky-terrace. A tranquil and private family terrace located directly above the main living pavilion is enveloped amongst the flowing long-leaf grasses of the green roof.