“The moTheR aRT Is aRchITecTuRe. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.


~ Frank Lloyd Wright

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W R i T T E n b y: PA M E l A C O R A n T E - h A n s E n

12.16.2011 | SouTHBaydiGS.com 41

in a swath of Southern california communities defined primarily by the choice strip of beach that hugs the coastline, the South Bay has struggled with its architectural identity, as many local preservationists can attest. Storms, fires and urban renewal obliterated early redondo Beach landmarks; a post-war building boom all over Southern california left its mark on South Bay cities with the construction of a few gems and countless utilitarian homes built for a blue-collar demographic. in recent years, landmark homes have been destroyed to be replaced by contemporary renditions of classic architectural themes: Tuscan, mediterranean, cape cod. But a new era of architectural awareness has arrived, as evidenced by the recent upper pier avenue face lift in Hermosa Beach and a surge in custom-built South Bay homes that are gracing the pages of national shelter magazines. for the first time since many local architects, builders and residents can remember, the South Bay is carving out its own unique architectural aesthetic. a renewed appreciation for world-class design and construction has resulted in more visually arresting commercial and residential architecture in the beach cities and surrounding neighborhoods.

3421 manhattan avenue in manhattan Beach. Built by mGm Studios in 1936, one of the home’s most famous occupants was screen idol errol flynn. a noteworthy component of the South Bay’s architectural reinvention is the revival of styles other than the ubiquitous mediterranean look, with careful attention to period details and superior craftsmanship. a wider range of styles is being tapped, from craftsman to caribbean (see Sweet digs article in this issue). architect miles pritzkat of pritzkat & Johnson architects in redondo Beach recalls an original craftsman home in redondo Beach that was demolished 12 years ago. “a year or two later, homes were popping up with shingles and traditional craftsman styling. These things cycle back – it’s like the design trumps all, eventually.”

A little cottAge by the seA
While the South Bay home buyer of 2011 may still be on a quest to live near the sea, permanence is the driver. yesterday’s seasonal seaside cottage has become today’s beach-chic primary residence, inspiring architects to adapt to their clients’ more cosmopolitan tastes and 21st century lifestyles. Some homes being built today may retain a beach aesthetic, but they are designed in a way that meets the needs of homeowners who entertain regularly or require a configuration that can accommodate a home office or professional-caliber kitchen, media room or wine cellar. as a result, the South Bay’s brand of new architectural design has given rise to striking modern residences with ample use of metal and wood detailing, and glass walls to take in ocean and beach views. South Bay architect dean nota’s recent project at 718 The Strand in Hermosa Beach exemplifies this aesthetic.

some aRchITecTs do moRe conTempoRaRy pRoJecTs, oTheRs Focus moRe on TRadITIonaL desIGn. BuT IT’s LIke sayInG, ‘What’s the best music – classical, jazz or hip-hop?’ If it’s thought through, quality design is timeless.
- architect miles pritzkat of pritzkat & Johnson architects

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morris of matt morris development in manhattan Beach. “The high cost per square foot in the South Bay drives the need to be creative in terms of what we can do with that space.” Which calls to mind the other m-word, mansionization. it’s a topic that remains hotly debated; in today’s architectural renaissance, bigger can indeed be better, if done right. The new architectural landscape employs tasteful design and balanced proportions to create beauty on a large scale, as in the triple-lot, single-family residence at 212 The Strand in manhattan Beach. While the home was the center of much discussion, the end result is arguably well-executed. But successful architectural design also is occurring on a smaller scale. “a more recent phenomenon we’re seeing is a second or third wave of refinement in the neighborhoods that originally were built post-World War ii,” said pritzkat. “part of the reason this works is that people are getting the sense that if you have your little spot of South Bay and you polish it and make it wonderful, it’s a great place to live. The lots here are small, so you’re starting to see a density of design on generally smaller pieces of property.” making the most out of a small lot today means maximizing the use of outdoor space. more homes are being built with roomy outdoor living rooms boasting fire pits, built-in outdoor cooking ranges, and ample square footage to accommodate furniture. Terraces on upper floors extend living space in bedrooms and sitting areas, taking full advantage of the South Bay’s mild climate.

the next 10 yeArs
modern design, a demand for quality, green building and smaller-scale construction are just a few of the architectural trends on the horizon for the South Bay. most are starting to gain momentum already, as evidenced by the Burkhalter house in manhattan Beach. Built by architect Ben Burkhalter as his residence, the ‘green’ home is energy-efficient and built with environmentally friendly materials, high-efficiency fixtures and appliances, and droughttolerant landscaping. The structure was awarded leed platinum certification in may. a demand for high quality is attributed to an increase in new wealth, as noted by Gerard Bisignano, a South Bay real estate agent who specializes in luxury homes. “When we came out of the 1996 recession, it seems manhattan Beach was discovered by people on the Westside,” he said. “malibu was too far, Santa monica was too congested, so manhattan Beach got a whole new crowd, and they brought with them a lot of architectural influences.” With this influx comes an eclectic range of tastes evident in the various architectural styles that have emerged during the South Bay’s design rebirth. looking at the next 10 years, quality is key, according to pritzkat. “Some architects do more contemporary projects, others focus more on traditional design. But it’s like saying, ‘What’s the best music — classical, jazz or hiphop?’ if it’s thought through, quality design is timeless.”

in with the old
clean lines, glass walls, indoor-outdoor living spaces. Sounds pretty 21st century, but the South Bay’s architectural renaissance is recycling a movement that was initiated by modernist masters r.m. Schindler and richard neutra in the 1930s and 40s. The South Bay boasts an impressive number of neutra houses, most of them on the palos Verdes peninsula. not all of them exist today, as aesthetic merit is in the eye of the beholder. recent news about the moore house in palos Verdes estates, designed by lloyd Wright (the son of architect frank lloyd Wright) proves the point. The city and homeowner continue to discuss the home’s status with preservation groups. awareness about preserving the area’s architectural heritage has allowed for the preservation of homes such as the art deco gem at

bigger is not AlwAys better
anyone who has ever lived in a South Bay house built in the 1940s or earlier may have struggled with the astounding lack of closet and storage space. The reason: many homes in the beach cities at the time were built as summer residences for well-heeled los angeles and pasadena families who wanted to escape the inland heat. assuming wealthy angelenos of that era were light travelers, there was no need for cavernous closets or cupboards in their seaside second homes. minuscule closets may be the bane of many a beach cities renter or homeowner, but the challenge for today’s builder is the small size of the lot itself. “in terms of architectural styling, we have a lot less land than they would in pasadena or other areas in l.a. where homes are far more spread out,” said matt

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SouTHBaydiGS.com | 12.16.2011

“Less is more!
~ Ludwig van der Rohe

“aLL aRchITecTuRe Is sheLTeR, aLL GReaT aRchITecTuRe Is The desIGn of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.”
~ philip Johnson

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