Los Angeles, California

Modernism meets mass transit at a busy intersection

Merit Award: Linda Pollari and Robert Somol, PXS, Los Angeles (323/935-2351)

Challenge: Build a house with ample outdoor space on a difficult and overlooked ― and therefore affordable ― site beside a bus stop. The owner-architects called their corner site, which separates a suburban neighborhood from busy Olympic Boulevard, an "urban no-man's-land."

Solution: The 104-foot exterior wall facing Olympic is as anonymous and glistening as a big-rig trailer: only two long, slender, and deeply set ribbon windows punctuate the corrugated façaade. This double-framed, 23-inch-thick wall contains 6-inch-thick insulation and an extensive book collection. The stuccoed end facing the intersecting neighborhood street combines with feathery pennisetum grasses to soften the hard-edged look. The intended effect of these two almost windowless sides is to provide privacy and noise control while creating a façade appropriate for this urban setting.

Special effects:
• With a wall toward the street, the rest of the house could open up to a 100- by 25-foot yard. Four tracks of sliding glass stack to one side of a generous opening and make the interior flow easily to the garden. Radiant-heated concrete floors intersect with an exterior patio.

• The house tapers from a 22-foot-wide end holding a home office to a 12-foot-wide master bedroom at the other. There are no interior doors. Instead, two "floating cores" containing bathrooms and closets act as dividers. At the center is a kitchen-living area.