CHENG RESIDENCE / SILVERLAKE / CALIFORNIA
PROJECT TEXT: A small landslide in the downslope backyard of a bungalow in Silverlake is the occasion for this project; the necessary repair and stabilization of the damaged slope will require the construction of extensive new retaining walls that will become the foundation platform and lowest level of a new studio “towerino.”
The design is the relatively straightforward result of the intersection of all the local planning rules—those limiting the size and programming of accessory buildings, crossed with exceptions for height allowance on a slope—with the building code requirements for exiting [[ ]], all overlain by the desires of the owner for living place where he could continuously “sample” his furniture collection. This collection is no small achievement, featuring both iconic modernist originals and critical pieces commissioned from the architect. Such an architectural brief would normally suggest a warehouse/loft partis, but the steep slope of the site and planning department’s limitations on allowable floor area for accessory buildings preclude this approach. Instead, the towerino takes a page from contemporary robotic warehousing practice, using the height allowance to take the program vertical, with storage stacked according to its own dimensional requirements rather than human circulation.
The towerino has only two “floors”—one is the lowermost level, let into the concrete retaining structure, and the other is an elevator platform that translates vertically through the entire height of the studio above the concrete retaining structure. Throughout this height, arranged around the periphery of the open shaft space where the elevator travels, stacked “shelves” hold the furniture collection as well as other necessary programmatic elements like the bathroom, kitchen and clothes storage. As the elevator floor moves vertically between the levels of shelves according to the whims of the owner, (temporary) access to the furniture and programming options offered on each is permitted. Thus the usual spatial array of programming is efficiently substituted with a temporal array, allowing the owner to “sample” his assets on an “as-needed” basis, providing him with the appropriate “just-in-time” support for his activities. This “jukebox” logic is related to that of the architect’s patented PRO/dek program system, exhibited in this magazine previously in the F2 project. In both instances enough space for only a single activity is provided; consequently, this given quantum of space must be shared in sequence by the activities as they occur. The resources of a much larger dwelling are thus able to be accommodated in the much smaller structure.