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On a high

SAOTA’s Hillside house in LA is a striking ode to site and mid-century motifs

Located on a 20 000 square foot site, featuring 300-degree views over the LA skyline and city basin below, Hillside, a SAOTA project in Los Angeles was conceived more as a self-contained oasis than a conventional house. Perched above Sunset Boulevard and just one over from Pierre Koenig’s landmark Stahl House, it boasts contextual and scenic drama.

The Stahl House itself served as a key point of departure for the design. The forms and articulation of Hillside’s roof planes, pushed as far forward as possible so that they could create meaningful external covered living spaces, create a dialogue with the iconic silhouette nearby and connect the architecture to its context.

In keeping with the principles taken from the Stahl House and the ground-breaking Los Angeles Case Study Houses, which were built between 1945 and 1966, the generous allocation of outdoor space maximises the potential of the livable climate, reconnecting contemporary LA architecture with a somewhat lost aspect of its modernist heritage.

References to modernist construction techniques are picked up in the steel columns and the sensuous and tactile use of timber and limestone on the floors and wall, which is carried extensively throughout the interior and exterior detailing. Some of the identifying features – such as the cut-outs in the roof – have been carried through in the interior ceilings to add interest.

The steep approach from below resulted in a dramatic entrance through a top-lit central atrium – rising via a 12-car underground garage and an indoor waterfall which cascades into a courtyard before surfacing into the centre of the living level in a dramatic moment of revelation as a dead-on view of downtown LA opens up. The largely open-plan layout is arranged around this focal view, loosely forming two wings, one oriented east-west, and the other north-south.

In keeping with SAOTA’s extensive experience in developing seamless indoor/outdoor open-plan living spaces, it conceived a series of living rooms connected to extensive covered outdoor terraces. These outdoor spaces are in turn enclosed by a vast undulating infinity pool and lush landscaping along the perimeter, subtly screening neighbouring properties (and ensuring their privacy) with climbing ficus trees.


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