The 1/3-acre site for this house is located along the west slope of a semi-rural canyon above Pasadena. The steep site rises at a 40 degree slope with a small creek at its base. Attractive mountain and valley views are offset by the various hazards implied by the county’s stringent safety requirements. Fires, floods, landslides, and earthquakes all pose a danger in this beautiful setting. The property included a 22′ x 48′ concrete pier and grade beam foundation from the most recent house to have been destroyed at this address.
The appealing climate and scenery of Pasadena Glen appears to be the perfect setting for the open and informal modern houses that California architects have been designing for years. The “Mid-Century Modern” houses that epitomize this style were intended to revolutionize the ways in which Californians lived and built. An easy going relationship with the outdoors and a simple expression of minimal structure were key to this humane modernism that optimistically deployed contemporary technology to serve a new American middle class that valued culture, family, and the outdoors.
Frequent media spectacle disasters have demonstrated the folly of this approach. In the short time that California has been the site of urban development, it has become clear that a relaxed and informal posture is not advisable in this threat-rich environment.
The clients did not want a hillside bunker, but the new house needed to provide the (sense of) security its environment challenges. In addition to automatic fire sprinklers and fire-resistant exterior finishes, The house sports a bit of an attitude towards its not so friendly environment. The house’s cantilevers assert an aloof relationship to the ground; the crank of the plan provides a posture that is alert and anxious; the slope of the roof and the skirt give it presence; and its color lets there be no doubt as to its confidence.
Location: Pasadena, California
Photos: Erich Ansel Koyama
Awards: Pasadena/Foothill AIA Award of Merit, 2006