A topography sculpted of folded, skewed metal planes, the Vail House seems to enter into a love affair with the hill, blurring the boundaries between the natural and the artificial.
The design of the Vail House was generated by the integration of two disparate forces: the mundane requirements of the regulations imposed by zoning codes, economic constraints and the technical challenge of building on a steep hillside, and on the other hand the careful attention to the very specific condition of the site itself and to its surroundings. This made the project a unique expression of the generic and the specific.
The property is located in Silverlake adjacent to a Neutra house. An architectonically rich neighborhood in Los Angeles emblematic for the city’s Modern movement, Silverlake represents a typical residential area in Los Angeles, overlaying a densely knit urban fabric with a layer of private outdoor spaces.
The clients, a young couple, wanted to see these characteristics carried on into their house while looking for an economical, environmentally friendly design.
As opposed to a classically Modern approach, where the site conditions and the landscape are perceived as a mere backdrop for the building and remain untouched, this project is in large part directly related to the topography and engages with the landscape, diving into the hill at points and breaking away from it at others. Consequently, the building becomes an abstracted, facetted reading of the landscape that contains it.
Although the building appears to be a direct response to the topography, much of its shape actually derives from a translation of the complex setback and stepback requirements of the hillside ordinances as they relate to this site. The zoning codes require a lower building height towards the street and permitted a taller structure further up the hill. By that means, it was possible to build relatively close to the street and establish a relationship to the smaller scale in the surroundings, while being able to increase the height further back in the lot and thus taking advantage of the spectacular views.