Test Pit for Hillside Foundations

Today we have a brief discussion of hillside foundations. I’m excited to report that it looks like we’ll soon be under construction with our latest project, an addition/renovation in the hills, in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Sherman Oaks. In fact, I’m so excited that I have a video to share! But first, a little back story…

Typically, to build in a hillside area of Los Angeles such as this site, you need to hire a soils + geotechnical engineer to do exploratory digging and analyze the geology underlying your site. They prepare a special technical report, called a soils report, which must be approved by the City of L.A. Grading Department. This process costs thousands of dollars and can add weeks and weeks to the project timeline. Although the approval process is cumbersome and expensive, the soils report is very important for the structural engineer, who uses the data to ensure that the foundations are properly designed.

In this particular case, the Grading Department waived the requirement for a soils report, subject to certain conditions. A very important one of their conditions stated that the foundations be set on undisturbed natural soil or competent bedrock. Thus, in order to more fully understand what this requirement means in our case, we mobilized a little crew last week at the site, and dug a test pit. Our goal was to find out the depth of the bedrock. I was a little nervous about this, as one geologist I had spoken with gave a high likelihood that the bedrock was 20′ – 25′ deep in this area – which would have made this small addition financially unfeasible and killed the project. My client and I discussed it and decided it was well worth spending some money on a test pit now, before starting demo.

Nobody wants to tear off half the house and then dig for foundations only to discover that they’re going to have to go through crazy gymnastics with engineers and the city at that point. Continue reading

Oxford Square: Master Bath Custom Tile

As things wrap up at Oxford Square, there are a few more elements of the project to be shared here. Completion of the patio and back yard is still pending, and it could still be several weeks before we have the whole place professionally photographed. Meanwhile, there is still a lot to be excited about here at The Blog! These are still just my non-professional snapshots, so please forgive the amateur awkwardness of some of the images.

The guest bath tile got a little bit of a preview here. Prior to renovation, the guest bath was the one and only bath in the house.This week I want to look at the master bath, which was a completely new bath that we added to the house.

The master bath has a simple horizontal vanity, anchored by a taller storage cupboard on the right, and a tiled bench running the length of the room on the left. In the photo below, there will be a large mirror mounted in the blank space between the medicine cabinet and tall wooden storage cabinet.

Parson Architecture Oxford Square Master Bath Tile Detail Continue reading

Oxford Square Tile Backsplash

I stopped by our Oxford Square project today and a lot of the beautiful finishes I hoped to get more pictures of were covered up for protection, as they finish up painting. I was able to get a couple of shots of the installation of the kitchen tile backsplash though, and it’s pretty exciting.

Parson Architecture Los Angeles Modern Oxford Square Construction Arto Tile
The beautiful birch cabinets are all covered up for protection. Soon to be unwrapped, though!

Continue reading

Construction Update: Oxford Square

We have an exciting project under construction right now, and if you follow us on Facebook, you might have seen a few photos that we’ve shared lately. The project is in the Oxford Square neighborhood of Los Angeles, in an unassuming, boxy little one-story home from the 1920’s.

Parson Architecture Oxford Square Historic HPOZ Modern Renovation
Front of the Oxford Square house.

Continue reading

John Lautner’s Malin House “Chemosphere” 1960

Since we’re on a roll with discussions of Lautner in our Building of the Week series, we’re just going to keep on rolling. The other year when the MAK had their tour, after visiting the Harpel House (see last week’s BOTW installment) it seemed appropriate to walk up the street and have a nice view of the Chemosphere House. Here you can see them from Google Earth, with the hexagonally-based Harpel House appearing as the long white bar in the lower right, and the octagonal Chemosphere to the left.

Parson Architecture Blog Lautner Chemosphere

Continue reading

John Lautner’s Harpel House, 1956

The next house in our series on John Lautner is the Harpel House.  Nine years after the Jacobsen House, we can see that structure is clearly a major theme in John Lautner’s work. Harpel displays his ongoing interest in developing a fully integrated and expressed structural system, for each project, as an important architectural value.

Harpel is located a few miles west of the Jacobsen House, just down Mulholland and on the opposite side about a block. From the road, there is a long driveway that goes uphill to a level pad where the house sits. You can get a pretty clear picture of the siting of the house from the Google Satellite view:

Parson Architecture Blog John Lautner Harpel House

Continue reading

John Lautner’s Jacobsen House, 1948

A few years ago, the John Lautner Foundation put on a really great tour of several Lautner homes, as part of the centennial celebration of his birth. I went on the tour and wrote up a few of those, but not all of them, on my old blog, Creatures of Prometheus. As part of our Building of the Week series, I thought I’d resurrect some of those old posts, and eventually write up the others here at Parson Architecture: The Blog. I fail to see how anyone could get too much Lautner!

The Jacobsen is on Multiview Drive, just below Mulholland Drive, overlooking the San Fernando Valley above Studio City and Universal City.  Multiview is a pretty good street for architecture; Schindler’s wonderful Kallis House, with its butterfly roof and quirky stone fireplaces, is nearby on the same side of the street.

This is an early-career project for Lautner, dating from 1947.  According to Wikipedia, he had left Frank Lloyd Wright’s employment and gone off on his own by that time, although he did not finally obtain his own architecture license until 1952.

So, this house is the work of an unlicensed individual who would have found himself in violation of California law had he have claimed to have been an architect. Ahem. Don’t get me started.

The other houses on the tour were better concealed from the road; this house reveals itself pretty directly to you as you walk up the driveway:

John Lautner Jacobsen House - Parson Architecture: The Blog

Continue reading

Theme and Variation: Manny’s Auto Repair

If you’ve ever driven back and forth on the 5 freeway between L.A. and Orange County, you’ve driven right past one of my favorite buildings and probably not even realized it. There are a lot of really interesting buildings in SoCal by unknown or forgotten architects, and a lot of interesting buildings that probably got built without an architect’s involvement at all. Of the latter group, Manny’s Auto Repair, at 4849 Telegraph Road, is near the top of my list.

If you’re driving south, watch the road to your left just after the 710 interchange. Northbound drivers should keep an eye out to the right as you come away from the Citadel Outlets. You’ll probably be going pretty slow anyway, and it shouldn’t be that hard to spot. Look for the glorious-but-slightly-faded red-orange building with MANNY’S AUTO REPAIR emblazoned across the top in big block letters. (Click the images to embiggen and open in a new window.)

Parson Architecture Blog #concreteblock
Manny’s Auto Repair

What makes this building so great? Two things.

Continue reading