Alta House

Alta House
Los Angeles, California

This house is located on a lot that was cut into the high portion of a mountain, with a hillside street wrapping around it. The mountain rises behind the house, looming over and cutting off afternoon sunlight to the property. The site opens out to panoramic views over the Santa Monica Bay however, and from the second floor one can see from the Pacific Ocean to downtown Los Angeles.

The configuration of the house grew directly from these site features. The mass of the building follows the street, benching into the hillside to create a 2-story structure that is partially embedded into the hillside, minimizing the foundations required into bedrock.  A curving masonry wall holds the street edge of the site, creating privacy from the passing cars. The house both engages with and pulls away from this site wall, creating a series of differentiated indoor and exterior spaces for gardens, an entry court, daylight and cross ventilation.

Once inside the house, sliding glass walls open in every direction creating a sense of transparency and lightness. Natural daylight and air flow freely through the house, obviating the need for air conditioning or daytime lighting. Rooftop photovoltaic panels, cisterns, gray water recycling, and high efficiency systems further minimize the energy footprint of the house. 

A structural system of piers and volumes anchor the free-flowing spaces between inside and outside.  The walls shift in plan, at times engaging the edge of the building and at times receding to the glass line. The circulation, layout and structure of the house is orthogonal, but the asymmetrical configuration of planes and volumes framing diagonal views and a dynamic relationship between the house and the surrounding landscape.