steven ehrlich architects, culver city, calif.

Light, expansiveness, and self-expression—themes of contemporary California culture—converge in the design for the Venice Beach lofts. With their concrete floors, conspicuous air ducts, and metal bridges, they summon the atmosphere of an old industrial building. "A lot of the idea of the design is how one moves through the volume up into the light," Steven Ehrlich says. A staircase with steel grating leads across a metal bridge and up another flight of stairs, culminating in a private roof terrace with an ocean view. In the living area, the ceiling height climbs to 25 feet, and a roll-up garage door evaporates the barrier between house and garden.

On this infill project, Ehrlich solved the parking riddle with a semi-subterranean two-car garage for each of the four units, plus four private guest spaces off the alley. The concrete deck forms a platform from which the building rises. Its skin of low-cost, durable materials like stucco and corrugated painted steel adds to its urban appeal. The judges praised the design's appropriateness for a lively and eclectic neighborhood. "Real fresh—very L.A.," they said.

project architect: Steven Ehrlich, FAIA, Steven Ehrlich Architects
developer: Beach Lofts LLC, Los Angeles
general contractor: Sanches Brothers Construction, Culver City
landscape architect: Ray Hansen, San Diego
project size: 1,900 square feet per unit
site size: 0.17 acre
construction cost: $200 per square foot
sales price: $790,000 to $850,000 per unit
units in project: 4
photographers: Tim Brown