Located in Tokyo, Japan, Tama Art University Library by Toyo Ito & Associates | The Hardt
Located in Tokyo, Japan, Tama Art University Library by Toyo Ito & Associates. Ito shares Mies van der Rohe’s fascination with the grid as a parametric and therefore boundless geometry. Toyo Ito seeks to distort and modulate it, to get what he calls an “emergent grid”. Using one of the oldest, most classical architectural staples – the arch – but associating it with a natural phenomenon – the stalactites – Toyo Ito adds a sense of ambiguity to an otherwise clear motif.
Phillip Dixon House by Phillip Dixon located in Venice, CA | The Hardt
Phillip Dixon House by Phillip Dixon located in Venice, CA. This is the most Instagram’d house in the world apparently (not sure how that stat was calculated but it seems to be the consensus among a number of reputable outlets) The following interview was done by Kendall Conrad for C Home. On a gritty Venice side street, photographer Philip Dixon has crafted a sanctuary for the senses woven with natural hues, broad swaths of soothing stone and calming water.
Philip Dixon is a compelling sight to behold, with a face mixing equal parts Klaus Kinski and Sting, and an affinity for wearing caftans. A photographer’s photographer, his extraordinary Venice Beach house and the garden is a reflection of his unique vision—a finely tuned aesthetic of minimalism, natural beauty, and ethnic accents.
His early years were spent working in a photo lab, where he soon became a master printer. He then turned his sights to photography. Having made his break-through at Playboy (where he liked to portray women as “strong and in-control heroines”), he went on to an expansive career in America and France, shooting for fashion magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and French Elle. Always in motion physically or mentally, women in Dixon’s world are sculptural, formidable beauties in tune with their environment. He has photographed celebrities like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Sean Combs; record covers and advertising campaigns for brands like Nike, Patek Philippe, Victoria’s Secret and Yves Saint Laurent.
With a budding career in home design and photography books in the works about Africa and Mexico, Dixon is finally working for himself. Having moved to Venice in 1972, Dixon has shared this house with his girlfriend—photographer Veronique Vial—for the past 12 years. C Contributing Editor-at-Large Kendall Conrad spoke with Dixon about his overlapping realms of home, work, and life.
C Tell me the inspiration and story behind your house. Why did you build it? Why in Venice?
PD I did it in Venice because it’s the best place to live in L.A. You can walk everywhere—it’s a village. It was a nasty neighborhood at first, but I always knew it would change; it just took much longer than I thought. In architecture, everything designs itself based on what you want. You have to look at where the light comes from; you have to look where the wind comes from. And then you have to know how you want to live. And the way I wanted to live was with the pool and the garden and the house all incorporated into one. Then I built the big walls so I could keep the house more open and have privacy and security.
C Do you find Venice has changed a lot?
PD Drastically! Now I have heard it is one of the most expensive areas per square foot in all of Los Angeles.
C How long have you lived here?
PD I bought the property in ’78 and I built the house in 1990.
C What was there back then?
PD A little wood cottage and next to it, an old market that I then made into my studio. There were gangs shooting at each other outside, killing each other. It was a nightmare. And then it slowly got better and better. I tore down the little wood house, kept the studio the same and built everything that you see.
C Did you work with an architect?
PD I got a contractor who could do plans. I did it so we could get the permit. I fought with him all the time because he was more traditional than I was.
C So it came out of your head?
C The most predominant elements that stand out when you first see the house are stone, wood, water.
PD It’s all natural.
C And everything is open to the outside.
PD Yes, it’s all open so you can live with the water and plants and the house all together instead of having them separate.
C And the giant doors?
PD When I designed the house, I thought there should be wooden doors and glass doors—if it was cold, I could shut them. But I never shut them downstairs. Very rarely. Upstairs, maybe in the winter, I shut them—at night to sleep, but that’s it. Most of the time it’s all open.
C How many rooms are in the house?
PD Well, that’s a way of designing, too. I like large spaces that you can live in separately. I don’t like a bunch of little rooms. And so there are basically four large living areas in the main house. That’s it. But it’s about 6,000 square feet.
C And those living areas are?
PD A living room with a big fireplace; dining, kitchen, and an outside living room; a master bedroom; and then an extra bedroom that doubles as a sitting room upstairs.
C And then you have outside rooms and decks.
PD Yes, everything has an open wall with a deck outside, so you’re inside-outside even when you’re upstairs.
C And you chose the plants for your garden?
PD I chose cacti and succulents because I travel a lot, so I didn’t want to come back to a dead garden. I have low-maintenance plants. I like them because they’re sculptural. Every time I would buy a plant—whatever it was, a palm tree or a plant of any sort—it happened to be from Madagascar. I’ve never been, but I like all the plants from there because they look primitive.
C Yeah, you expect to see a dinosaur rounding the corner. And this sort of almost Middle-Eastern feeling of the walls and the stairs and furniture that you’ve built in?
PD The best architecture in the world, the most beautiful architecture, as far as I’m concerned, is in Africa—the parts that weren’t colonized. In, for example, southern Morocco and farther south, they make their houses out of materials that are around them, and in the process of building their houses, they put their personality into it. It’s not self-conscious, so they’ll make their houses, their bowls—their everything—in a pure way.
C So you applied that thought outside and in. When you built in the banquettes and the sconces, everything was built into the house?
PD Yeah, because I think, for me, normal furniture and paintings and all of that stuff is just jewelry. When a place is done, you shouldn’t have to put anything in it or on the walls. It’s already decorated; it’s already furnished. And also, it flows. So you have the seats, the tables, everything works together. And you just put the cushion on it and it’s easy maintenance. I’ll pick up a stick or a rock—to me, that’s art.
C What about the texture you’ve captured on your walls?
PD I didn’t want to use a cosmetic color. I wanted it a little bit warm because the light that comes into the room is open shade, which is blue, so I wanted to have them beige only because it looks like the stone I like—sandstone. So I put brown sand with white concrete which made an organic color, not a cosmetic color, and then I put acid on it to expose the sand more so that it looks like sandstone.
C And the rocks that are in your fireplace and around?
PD I went up and picked out 40,000 pounds of rock in Lompoc in Central California. And I wanted the walls to have a similar feel to the rocks that I picked out.
C And the treatment of metal in your house?
PD I just put a little acid on it to give it a patina, then I finished it with a sealer.
C And what’s your favorite room?
PD It depends on what time of year. In the winter, I like upstairs because the sun is prominent there. In the summer, I like downstairs. So, it just depends on the time of year and the time of day. I like different places in the house at different times of the day. Depending on the light.
C Tell me about the pool and the mosaic floors and the mosaic in the pool.
PD The mosaics are made by Xavier Llongueras. He had always done pieces with lots of colors, but I wanted, tone on tone, the same color as the walls—like beige stones. That was before you could buy all those cut stones. We cut them all ourselves, and I fashioned it after a Moroccan bowl, which is behind the dining room table. And that was my inspiration. And then on the pool, we did something that looks like it’s been there forever, you know, broken and…not perfect.
C The mosaic under the dining table looks like a carpet.
PD Yeah, that’s what I wanted: a stone carpet. So that you could—once again, low maintenance—wash it.
C Do you collect anything?
PD No, I only collect rocks and sticks [laughs].
C How did you get into photography?
PD When I found out I like to arrange things. It’s easy to be complicated and difficult to be simple in any kind of thought pattern. And when I realized that, I went down to the simplest form of what I was good at, and I thought, “Oh, I am good at arranging things. Now, what can I do as a job where I can arrange things? Aha! I can arrange things and take a picture of them.” And then I taught myself photography.
C How does your house influence your work? Do you use your house often in your work?
PD I’ve shot here a lot over the years. Because I’m a photographer, I’m sensitive to light, so I designed a house where natural light plays a key role. I have a studio next door, but I’ve ended up shooting at my house more than I shoot at my studio because the light is so beautiful. But now I’m into plants because photography was one-dimensional. Then architecture is three-dimensional, and you can use it. Now I’m into gardens, which are three-dimensional, but they’re alive and they grow. It’s another thing that’s really satisfying—using the same muscle in my head that I use in my photography, for architecture, and for gardening. Basically, I’m a gardener now. Most of the time I’m in the garden. If you look at my pictures, my pictures look like my house; my house looks like my pictures. And they all look like me. It’s one point of view.
Mexico City House by Pedro Reyes and Carla Fernández located in Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City House by Pedro Reyes and Carla Fernández located in Mexico City, Mexico. Mexican artist Pedro Reyes and his wife, fashion designer Carla Fernández designed a gorgeous house that is an exceptional example of Brutalist Beauty. The couple built their beautiful Home in Coyoacán, south of Mexico City, it is a peculiar structure that was envisioned as a dwelling for the caveman of the future. The source of inspiration for the concept are the ruins of a civilization, now extinct, which was more advanced than the one we’re living in now, according to the designers. Hammered concrete walls, chunky furniture from volcanic stone and an abundance of rich, overblown greenery all come together to form an architectural masterpiece. Part of the remarkable stone floor is inspired by the nearby Anahuacalli Museum, the “temple” designed by Rivera in 1957 as a depository for his collection of 60,000 pre-Hispanic artifacts. Elsewhere, hammered concrete floors and walls were inspired by the Mexican brutalists, in particular, 89-year-old Teodoro González de León, who built many landmarks across the Mexican capital.
Ancient Aztecs meet The Martian Chronicles in the form of hammered concrete walls, chunky furniture hewn from volcanic stone and an abundance of rich, overblown greenery. A “pyramid” at one end is Carla’s studio, a yard behind it will be Pedro’s. It’s currently a ramshackle plot occupied by the team of artisans that is helping finish the house. “The use of concrete is very canonical, very clichéd, but it has many possibilities,” says Reyes, pointing out the handmade bricks covered with a wax-like concrete paste, which he, and his team, developed specifically for this project.
The couple also designed much of the furniture, a series of chunky unusual constructs that are deemed artworks in their own right, while at the same time serving a functional purpose. The lava-stone master bath and basin and the concrete kitchen table are two of the most imposing pieces, but perhaps the centerpiece of the house is a ceiling light, made of copper tubes threaded through an electrical wire. The striking ceiling light is inspired by the work of Buckminster Fuller, as is a 4m-high geodesic dome being completed in the living room. Another distinctive piece of furniture is Reyes’ sign language-inspired “Mano-Sillas” chairs, that appear alongside international and Mexican midcentury classics from the likes of Charles and Ray Eames and Clara Porset, and simple rural pieces such as milking stools, leather butaque chairs and seats woven from palm fronds. “The technique was used by the Aztecs and has been recovered by the design-conscious, but not in any official way,” says Reyes. “It would be great to make them on a large scale in other raw materials”. Revisiting ancient indigenous skills and developing a modern Mexican language lies at the heart of Fernández’s work, in particular.
Between the master bedroom and the two children’s bedrooms, there is space for one of “the best hammocks in Mexico”. These are woven by women from cooperatives in Izamal in Yucatán and Calkiní in Campeche, take two months to make and can sleep a family of four. The multitude of cultural symbolism is no coincidence. Before becoming an artist, Reyes trained as an architect at the Ibero-American University in Mexico City. His plan in designing the house was to transform 1.000 square meters of a “1980s monstrosity” into a modern space that includes hints of all of Mexico’s many modern cultural aspects. Enjoy the best parts of this Brutalist Beauty in the gallery below.
31 Carysfort Road House by ODOS Architects situated in Dalkey, Ireland | The Hardt
31 Carysfort Road House by ODOS Architects situated in Dalkey, Ireland. Originally No. 31 Carysfort Road was a mid-terrace, one bedroom dwelling, with a single story rear return and small back garden. Our brief was to refurbish the existing dwelling and improve the connection between living areas and the limited external space while providing as much extra floor space as possible. The tight site conditions along with the strict planning constraints quickly defined the parameters within which we could work, but also began to suggest the basic form and shape of the new rear extension. This new structure was conceived as a simple form which connected at ground floor level with the rear of the main house. Its ground floor rear elevation is completely open to provide a full height glazed connection to the rear courtyard while a similar opening is provided at a high level to allow south light to penetrate deep into the building plan over the adjoining roofscape. In front of this high-level clerestory, a small office or study area has been provided on the mezzanine, looking down into the new living area below.
In order to ensure the new structure to the rear would not be visible over the ridge lines of adjoining structures, the rear extension has been partially sunk into the ground resulting in a complexity of form and volume both internally & externally. Externally this new structure is formed by a fair-faced concrete shell and a negative joint or external ‘shadow gap’ has been provided around its sides and base, helping it to hover over the rear courtyard and assert its own unique status within the surrounding context. A single door provides access to the rear courtyard which has been given a glazed external finish, sitting flush with the adjoining fixed, frameless glazing section. Internally, a black terrazzo floor has been used throughout, set against white walls, ceilings and recessed, flush finishing units. The front bathroom walls are clad entirely with full height honed basalt stone slabs. The rear courtyard has been finished with simple white gravel and contains a fair-faced concrete deck/dog kennel and a mature olive tree.
The Lake House located in Seattle, Washington by Suyama Peterson Deguchi. The Lake House was conceived as a 21st Century retreat – an escape from expectations of modern life to a lakefront cabin near the city. The site is a narrow plot of land tightly wedged between existing single-family houses. The houses have an imposing presence on the site creating a need for visual privacy. The program allowed the design to be conceptually simplified into three components – a thick wall extruded from the topography, a low horizontal roof, and a volume for sleeping. The site conditions led us to carve multiple indoor/outdoor spaces into the topography – by filling some of the spaces with water we were able to expand the sense of the waterfront deeper into the property. The resulting spaces relieved the pressure for privacy from the waterfront exposure. A low roof provides a horizontal datum; a reference point to the sloping topography and a sense of open privacy from the neighbors.
Baron House located in Skåne, Sweden by John Pawson | The Hardt
Baron House located in Skåne, Sweden by John Pawson. The site of this vacation house in rural southern Sweden came with a conventional arrangement of farm buildings set around a courtyard and the earliest phases of the project explored the possibility of retaining some elements of the original structures. The final design raises single-story wings of accommodation on the cleared footprint of the old. Agricultural precedents are reworked in both the form and materiality of the architecture, producing pitched roofs of corrugated zinc, white rendered walls and timber elements.
Located in Tokyo, Japan, Tama Art University Library by Toyo Ito & Associates | The Hardt Located in Tokyo, Japan, Tama Art University Library by Toyo Ito & Associates. Ito shares Mies van der Rohe's fascination with the grid as a parametric and...
Phillip Dixon House by Phillip Dixon located in Venice, CA | The Hardt Phillip Dixon House by Phillip Dixon located in Venice, CA. This is the most Instagram'd house in the world apparently (not sure how that stat was calculated but it seems to be the consensus...