Elegantly imposing, SPF:a's House on Blue Jay Way sets new architectural standards among LA's new generation of Modernist inspired masterworks.

Revisiting the Modernist aesthetic of LA's celebrated vernacular style, SPF:a's House on Blue Jay Way sets new standards for the city's architecture.

The most famous landmark on the Los Angeles skyline may still be the Hollywood sign, erected in 1923, but since then the city has undergone an impressive urban evolution, boasting structural trophy works from the world's leading architectural deities, such as Charles & Ray Eames, Richard Neutra and Frank Gehry. From the beautiful simplicity of possibly the world's most glamorous housing project - the highly acclaimed Case Study Program - to the ambitious complexity of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, California's well documented urban evolution continues.

Standing resolutely above the Los Angeles basin, SPF:a's acclaimed residence, designed by architect Zoltan Pali, represents the beauty of the city's indigenous architectural style, imposed by the architects of California's post-war housing boom. Set at an almost 45-degree grade atop its vertiginous site, the four-story structure harmonizes with its surroundings through a spectacular layered outer façade. The concrete base mirrors the rock on which it stands, teak cladding reflects the surrounding nature, while the medial glass level breaks up the structure, creating a light feel. From a distance only the top level is particularly prominent.

A vast, open-plan master bedroom and bathroom dominates the teak-clad top level of the four-story space. The living area, housed within the glazed enclosure below, follows the spatial theme, as the kitchen, living and dining room flow continuously into one another, separated only by subtle elements, such as low-level water features, island units and wood paneling. Ironically, the level least visible from the outside is the most outstanding feature of the interior. Taking inspiration from Pierre Koenig's famous Stahl Residence, Pali created the glass-enclosed entertaining and dining space to exploit the home's unrivaled vantage point to full effect. "When you're on the main level, you pretty much feel like you're floating over the city," explains Pali. "It's a compressed space – the ceiling is not very high – but it is a panoramic space. You get this really wonderful, cinematic feeling every time you are up there going about your daily life, which, to me, should be the most important aspect of the house – the experience that you get when you're doing everyday things." Each section within the social space is centered, creating a perimeter, subconsciously encouraging a flow of traffic that circulates the Miesian space, drawing attention to the compelling 180-degree views of the basin which, in the traditional modernist spirit, merges interior with exterior.

Pali eschewed the local trend of precariously place infinity pools, opting instead to create an inner haven, secreted away inboard. Spanning almost the entire length of the main living level, the oasitic enclave also transforms the restricted views facing the hillside from within the apartment into yet another scenic backdrop.

Aesthetically, the House on Blue Jay Way pays a fitting homage to the modest spirit of modernist architecture. It was even photographed by the man who immortalized American architecture, photographer Julius Shulman – at his request. However, as Pali rightly points out, superfluous elements, such as the disco lounge and screening room, housed in the lower level, go against the philosophy of a movement that extolled the virtues of simple, pared-down living. "What people don't understand about the Case Study program is that it really tried to be extremely efficient and simple, based on the notion of how to build without waste and how to simplify things aesthetically. Modernism is about trying to simplify your life rather than complicate it."

Pali's vernacular language was informed by a close working relationship with Jerrold E. Lomax, a former protégé of Craig Ellwood, who's studio created no less than three of the celebrated Case Study examples (16, 17 and 18) in the mid 1950s. For Pali, a struggling young architect at that time, the work of Lomax had a profound effect. "He (Lomax) told me to go visit a house that he was building, called the Westgate Residence in Brentwood, and it was an epiphany. It was this beautiful simple series of geometric organized shapes around trees. I loved the transparency, the level of detail and the quality of workmanship. It was inspirational in terms of how to look at architecture and how to solve the problems of architecture while still creating beauty out of that," he recalls. Bringing renewed glamour to the West Coast, SPF:a's Blue Jay Way is a veneration of America's architectural glory days.

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