Malibu House (in production)
Malibu, California 2005-

Materials: Structure: Plasma cut steel plate ribs with lateral and diagonal steel bracing; Skin: Copper shingles
Dimensions: 1275 sf interior; 460 sf covered exterior

This house occupies an excessively regulated site in the bluffs of Malibu overlooking the Pacific. Physically, the hillside site presents fewer difficulties than most of the surrounding area: a flat building area, nearby utilities and road access with stunning views in all directions. Legally, however, the site is exceedingly difficult to develop. Located at the edge of a major landslide zone and in the path of frequent wildfires, the numerous planning bodies charged with the oversight of this area would rather the site lie permanently fallow. The project's form, structure, and skin respond in large part to these difficult constraints.

Limited to the diminutive area, height, volume and weight of a former house destroyed by fire in 1993, this house must nevertheless meet all current building standards. The design process was one of continual modeling of nuanced change similar to morphologist D'Arcy Thompson's method for measuring minute variations in animal form. The topological curiosity of the Klein Bottle began the development of an involuted spatiality to capture exterior space without spending valuable square footage allotments. The general organization of the house consists of three parts: a torus-shaped structural shell, a single floor plate that spirals upward, and an exterior deck that is cradled by the overall form. Two outdoor living spaces are involuted into the shell.

The shell is made of thirty five contoured steel plate ribs with steel lateral and diagonal blocking. Plywood sheathing is eliminated to allow two way curvature on the exterior and interior surfaces of the shell. The floor joists act as ties to resist the outward thrust of the arch-like ribs while the entire shell is held together mid-span by a steel tension ring.

The exterior is covered with copper shingles scaled to reflect the path of rainwater over the form. The multiplication of flat seams predicts the corrosion patterns that will emerge in time. Other geometric orders result from limiting shingle height and the addition and subtraction of shingle rows to accommodate the shells’ differential surface area. The round apertures respond directly to the structural system, occupying cells without diagonal blocking. This yields diagonally arrayed openings that flow over the surface of the shell. On the interior these perforations reinforce the spatial fluidity of the house by drawing the eye upward along the surface and onto the underside of the shell. The aperture distribution also relates to the dramatically modulated topography of the site. To the north and east, the ground rises quickly. To the south and west, the ground drops away dramatically to a panoramic ocean view.

This project is currently under permit review.

Project Team:
Liesl Margolin, Brendan Muha, Kelly Bair, Rosalio Arellanes, Carrie Smith, Eric Leishman, Adam Fure, Michael Loverich, Ramiro Diazgranados

Project Consultants:
Anders Carlson, GMS Engineering
David Chlebus, GMS Engineering

Project Rendering:
Daniel Carper