Project: Pittman Dowell Residence

Client: Lari Pittman and Roy Dowell

Architect: Michael Maltzan Architecture—Michael Maltzan (principal); Tim Williams (associate in charge); Steven Hsun Lee (project designer); David Freeland, Hiroshi Tokumaru, Christoph Plattner, Nadine Quirmbach, Wil Carson, Christopher Lee (project team)

Engineer: B.W. Smith (structural)]

Contractor: Asterisk Construction

A six-acre, three-tiered site in La Crescenta, Calif., originally intended as the location for a series of Richard Neutra houses, only one of which (the Seruinic Residence, 1952) was ever built.

The 2,500-square-foot single-family residence is based on the geometric principle that no matter how one divides a volume, when the pieces are put back together the total volume is the same. The result is a one-bedroom, single-level house with living and dining areas and a library, oriented around a courtyard.

Geometric studies resulted in the division of the program into a series of wedge shapes. In plan, the house is a heptagon (a seven-sided polygon), with an internal courtyard enclosed by floor-to-ceiling windows, which allow occupants to see the angles and geometries play off one another.

In keeping with the ideals of the midcentury Case Study houses, the architects integrated the outside environment with the house's interior. Exterior glazing varies from full walls of glass to vertical and horizontal slits that carefully frame views.

The house's placement on the site makes its transparency undetectable by neighbors and passersby. Accessible only by a highly curved drive, the house sits below street level on a terrace beyond the Neutra house and a pre-existing garden planted by the owners.

Patterned materials such as hexagonal concrete pavers, concrete-stripe pavers, and punched sheet metal sunshades reinforce the house's unusual geometry and create texture in the floor planes and through the play of light entering the spaces.

The Architect

Firm: Michael Maltzan

Architecture, Los Angeles

Principal: Michael Maltzan

Employees: 15

Year Founded: 1995

Recent Work: Pirelli Re Offices, Milan, Italy (unfinished); Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.