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Artistic Nature: A Modern Showcase of Design and Nature in Perfect Balance

by creativehomex

Nestled into a hillside in the Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, the aMa House created by XTEN Architecture for shoe designer Cydney Mandel and her husband is a sublime and spiritual retreat- a transformative, open and art-filled private residence designed to blur the lines between indoors and out and maintain a strong connection with nature.

The concept of the project centres around a unique philosophy in that the airy Palisades home would leverage sustainable and biophilic design principles to create a dynamic tapestry of seamless layered environments that are connected, complementary, and integrated.

The masterfully planned site and carefully orchestrated flow follow a holistic, protean approach. A diverse collection of spaces allows for a multitude of activities, opportunities for public entertaining, and private moments to occur simultaneously.

Each reveals the discovery of artistically arranged vignettes and contemporary design elements highlighted by the natural landscape and the site’s abundant, natural light to evoke a sense of sublime wonder. “Once inside the house, sliding glass walls open in every direction creating a sense of transparency and lightness— of being one with nature,” states XTEN President Monika Haefelfinger.

A curved masonry wall, which rises nearly 30 feet along the length of the property, is one of the home’s unique architectural features. “We embraced the curve by designing a semi-circular façade that follows the form of the street,” explains Haefelfinger, “It was key in providing our clients with privacy from the elevated street which wraps around much of the property.”

More than just functional or decorative, the curving wall flirts with the orthogonal design of the two-story main house, engaging with and then pulling away. This creates pockets of exterior spaces in varying shapes and sizes. Enhanced with layered gardens, tree canopies and water features under the direction of Studio MLA, these spaces become transformative and spiritual.

The act of entering the home, for example, offers a sort of ritualistic cleansing as you pass through a courtyard filled with waterfalls and lush greenery. Just inside is the center point of the home- an expansive double-height living space with glass doors on both sides that invite illuminating natural light to flood in. The artfilled space is interrupted by bookended architectural elements: a poured-in-place concrete staircase forms a striking textural contrast to a tailored oak cabinetry wall.

“The art and the landscape really are the central focus of this space,” observes XTEN Principal Scott Utterstrom, “With the architecture yielding to them.”

“Woven throughout the property, there are truly special moments where the architectural and design elements just came together so organically and blend so perfectly with the landscape.” Haefelfinger adds, “Like the beautifully planted hillside with a lovely staircase that leads to the guest house beneath the pool.”

By benching and partially embedding the structure into the hillside, XTEN Architecture minimized the foundations required into bedrock. Natural daylight and air flow freely through the house, obviating the need for air conditioning or daytime lighting. Rooftop photovoltaic panels and high efficiency systems further minimize the energy footprint of the house.

As a meaningful and enduring memorial to the late Austin Kelly, XTEN’s co-founder who passed away during the planning phases of this project, the client had a concrete caisson excavated from the previous structure permanently placed as a garden sculpture. The artistic tribute can be seen in images just outside of the master bath.


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