Tuesday, April 08, 2008

UCLA: Two Houses and An Observation

The UCLA Open House was this weekend, and among other things we got to visit two houses designed by professors: Neil Denari's Alan-Voo house in Palms and Roger Sherman's own domicile in Santa Monica.

And yes, these pictures are very snapshotty, but I was trying not to be the guy with the enormous camera hoovering up every available image, so I brought a little guy and used him discreetly.

The Alan-Voo house was both smaller than I expected and much more expertly detailed. The house was really a little jewel box-- a tiny addition for a regular couple with the detailing of a much larger and more expensive project. Impressive, although it did seem a lot more like a museum piece than Denari made it out to be in his explanation.

I was trying to explain to someone what I liked about this house and all I could come up with was "Denari's subjective angles are more attractive than other people's."

A perfect counterpoint to the Alan-Voo house was the Sherman residence, a house where seemingly every angle was derived from the program and code. This house could not have been different from Denari's project-- rough, lived-in, tactical rather than strategic. It was also very comfortable, and at times even beautiful. I have to say, I would probably rather live in this house (despite the lack of a door on the master bedroom. I won't try to explain the complicated programmatic layering of the office/house/rental unit/parking, but rather please enjoy the crazy way it stacks in perspective (and the wonderful wallpaper.)

Both of these houses were great examples of local architecture that highlighted the ability of this faculty (and the architects of this city) to not only produce novel theory and form but also to project that in actual built work-- work that was more interesting in experience than in writing. I wish this could be said of all architects and architecture. In the 5-minute presentations by the faculty of their work I was consistently impressed by the depth and completeness of work by people less than a decade older than myself. They set the bar for practice impossibly high, and I can only hope a little bit of their ethic rubs off in my short months at UCLA.

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