Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pristine Mid-Century Modern | Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A., 1956 - Encino

3736 Hayvenhurst Ave, Encino, CA - Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A, 1956 - $2,199,000
Take in this private mid-century modern post and beam home located in the hills of Encino, CA, showcasing the masterful work of Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A.  Now on market ( MLS# 16-160888 ) asking $2,199,000, while looking for it's third steward to care for this "Mid-Century at a Classic Level." 
Set above the street and up the curvy drive, you come upon a somewhat modest facade, but tasteful, all the same.  The true surprise and joy comes when you walk through the front door and into this world of strategically placed fenestration offering seamless fluidity of environment that permits an infusion of natural light.  Architectural details and design further you through the home and out into nature.  
Redwood walls extend from the outdoors and into the reception area where you will find a large closet area behind the paneled pop-out doors, seamlessly hidden.  This freshly painted home is tight as a whistle and it shows from the moment you enter the home.
I always enjoy seeing how Fickett designed homes with his attention to bringing the outdoors-in, through his use of fenestration and architectural details, such as carrying the slump brick from the garden into the home and the usage of clerestory & skylights.  While creating a partition wall to separate the reception area from the eating area, he follows through with a contiguous motion of design. The eating area is delightful with a wall of windows and a door leading out to an intimate garden area with bubbling fountain.  
The soul is lifted in this home through its high ceilings and thoughtful spacial details.  Due to the spaciousness of this design, originally conceived by Fickett in 1954 for G.M.B. Corp. and Elwain Steinkamp, Fickett received the National Association of Home Builder's award for single-family residential planning. 
Fickett was noted in the May 1955 issue of House Beautiful, showcasing his award-winning plan. This particular home was given an addition by the architect shortly after being built  in 1956 to add a generous-sized Family room and creating a total 2,270 square feet* of interior living space.  The design was noted for its freestanding fireplace in the center of the home providing definition without confinement.  You can't help being engaged by many elements of texture and pattern throughout.
The newly laid French white oak hardwood floors throughout the living area and sleeping quarters provide a polished, yet organic feeling to the home.  The wood provides that lovely natural element in keeping with the mindset of the modernist.  You will also find Herman Miller "Bubble Lamps" throughout this home, and they all come with the sale.
Another lovely feature of this home is the custom chef’s kitchen with Gaggenau appliances, Caesarstone countertops and plenty of storage space in the kitchen, as well as in the pantry.  The fenestration looks out onto the pool area, while the galley type plan features a breakfast bar and open to the eating area.
Off of the kitchen you will find the Utility room where washer and dryer can be found, along with the wine refrigerator.  Set in the corner is a built-in desk area for a quick study.  You also find access to the 2-car garage through this room. 
The original owner created a Family room addition, also designed by Fickett.  The current owners converted the room into an incredibly spacious Master bedroom suite.  Find comfort and tranquility within this area of the home, just footsteps from the pool.  Clerestory windows align the northern wall while a set of sliders and a corner of windows allow plenty of natural sunlight.  On those cooler Southern California evenings, enjoy the gas-starter fireplace and cuddle-up with someone you love or grab the latest best seller for a comfortable read.
The Master en-suite is like taking a moment at a luxurious spa.  Beautiful light from clerestory windows and a large plate window above the tub provides clean solar gain.  Go ahead.  Treat yourself to a Caviar Facial.  Double sinks are mounted to a milled floating vanity while the wet area provides double shower heads and seating bench.  Access to the walk-in closet can be found through pocket-doors from the bathroom or bedroom.
On the north-side of the home, you find the original sleeping quarters.  As you move through the central hall with skylights, you find the main bathroom with skylight and floating milled vanity.
The second 'Master bedroom' is a tranquil retreat with a north-facing wall of windows infusing a steady stream of muted sunlight.  The tasteful en-suite provides double sinks and shower area.
The Jack-n-Jill bedrooms join by an original birch accordion wall.  You will notice the partition wall of slump brick with glass above slotted into the masonry giving a sense of freedom and flow.

This home is ideal for anyone looking for spaciousness, privacy, architecture and design. Everything you see within this home is an example of "Pride of Ownership."  The home resides on a 20,976 square foot hillside lot (.485 acre) with a bounty of nature and mature greenery surrounding you, while keeping life private. 
A large patio area with a built-in seating nook rests outside the living room.  The pool embedded into the hillside bedrock was originally installed by Atlas Pools and has recently been resurfaced. The pool is not heated, but the spa certainly is.
Climb up a few railroad ties in the hillside and come upon an Observation deck to catch more beautiful foliage of the Encino hills within the beautiful Santa Monica Mountains.
There are numerous upgrades and features including Nest system, water purification, tankless water heater, sound system reaching indoors and outdoors, along with a security system installed(ADT).  Reports are on hand for anyone interested in reviewing the condition of the home. This post and beam home has only seen two owners.  Sellers are now sharing their pride of ownership with you.  Come see why this is an award-winning home design. 

You can find similar plans around Los Angeles in neighborhoods such as Brentwood, Bel Air, Encino and Sherman Oaks where Fickett and G.M.B. Corp. collaborated often.  Elwain Steinkamp (G.M.B.) and Fickett were forces to be reckoned with as they made an impact in housing throughout Los Angeles during the post-war movement. This relationship and collaboration would prove fruitful as the two men built many homes together as developer and architect, respectfully.
For more information or to set up an appointment to see this timeless design, please contact Steven Ward, Modern Homes Los Angeles, +1-213-305-8537.

*Square footage is based on a current performance by a professional floor planner.  All buyers must due diligence in regards to square footage, bed / bath count, permits, etc. 

Special thanks to Claudia at Modern Mecca.  You got game, girl!

House Beautiful, 1955 - Maynard Parker, Photographer

Monday, April 4, 2016

Raphael Soriano's All Aluminum Home: The Grossman House ("El Paradiso"), 1964

The Grossman House ("El Paradiso"), Raphael S. Soriano, F.A.I.A., 1963-1964
A perfect match between owner and architect occurred in the early 1960s.  Albert Grossman, owner and Raphael S. Soriano, F.A.I.A., architect, demonstrate a shared a vision together.  Perhaps I should have said, the two made for a match perfect for Aluminum Heaven...  The Grossman House was the first of Soriano's experiments with all-aluminum houses.  And sadly, it is the only All Aluminum Home, in pristine condition, of what remains built.  Soriano's concept of the All Aluminum House used a pre-fabricated method of design where a factory would manufacture building materials, such as walls, roofing and other panels that could be trucked to site and assembled without a hassle.
The Grossman House - All Aluminum Home - 11468 Dona Cecilia Dr., Studio City, CA
The Grossman House was designed 1963-1964 for Albert and Simonne Grossman. The architect dubbed The Grossman House, "El Paradiso," for its space-age vision of the good life, Southern California style.  In 1964, the Los Angeles Times remarked with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, "At last, a house for people who hate to paint."  Renowned L.A. architect Soriano broke new ground with his decision to use aluminum and glass instead of the commonly used building materials, such as wood, plaster and stucco.  The two gentlemen set off to create a one-of-a-kind design that certainly will never be duplicated.  The Grossman House is a treasure; to design, to architecture and to our city.
In 1963, Soriano's promotion of his "All Aluminum Home" buildings attracted the attention of businessman Albert Grossman, "Mr. Aluminum", whose companies sold a number of aluminum products.  Albert Grossman had met Soriano through his cousin Abe Grossman, inventor of the lightweight aluminum sliders marketed as Glide Panel View Windows. 
Grossman and Soriano first intended to collaborate on a group of aluminum homes for Nicaragua's Gen. Somoza.  When the Central American strongman was deposed and the project collapsed, they refocused on building a house.  Fascinated by the idea that Grossman's aluminum products could be displayed in his own residence, Albert agreed to build a 3,200-square-foot, four bedroom house with a light aluminum frame in the Hollywood Hills of Studio City.  

The entire frame of the one-story, flat-roofed building consisted of ten rigid aluminum frames spanning two 20-foot bays, spaced ten feet apart.  Aluminum sliding-glass doors and shop-painted aluminum panels lined its perimeter.  The aluminum used in El Paradiso is thick and has a superior factory finish to standard thin-sheet aluminum siding.  Also, with its wash-and-wear resilience, El Paradiso has aged better than most of its Laurel Canyon plaster-and-stucco neighbors.  When the earthquakes came, the sliding doors rattled and shook, but the house emerged with only a few hairline cracks in the terrazzo floors. Talk about sound engineering... 

Inside walls were finished with Micarta, a plastic laminate.  The color palette ranged from purple, gold, and yellow-green in the main living quarters to violet, coral, blue, white, and avocado in the bedrooms and bathrooms.  The inch-thick plywood doors, the ubiquitous chocolate-brown refrigeration cork, the sleek Formica cabinets; all original.  Ditto on the pre-finished aluminum ceiling, which has been washed every ten years.   You'll never have the need to repaint the anodized aluminum. You have to be one who is content with the original colors.  I know I could adapt.

The glass and aluminum of architect Soriano's "El Paradiso" reflect yesterday's vision of tomorrow.  Again, as one of the Modernists who shaped the look of postwar Los Angeles, Soriano helped pioneer the use of metal and glass over wood and stucco in home construction.  Like other materials whelped by the World War II technology boom, aluminum was seen as a progressive architectural force.  European emigres like Soriano, Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra (Soriano's one-time employer) seized on aluminum, stainless steel, fiberglass and other rugged newcomers for their structural experiments.  The Grossman House's aluminum framework and 28 glass doors (all 5 by 8 feet) came complete from a factory, and the modern, functional appointments are of easy-care materials such as Formica, terrazzo and cork.  Some have said the house was more of an assembly than a build due to the early pre-fabricated / factory-built approach to the design.  Entirely prefabricated, "El Paradiso" was trucked in from a factory, section by section, and assembled in eight months at a cost of $125,000. Grossman supervised the construction from an on-site trailer. 

Soriano walked off the job before its completion.  Perhaps the signs were visible that the forceful businessman from Philly and the legendarily temperamental, Greek-born architect would have a falling-out.  What happened, according to Grossman, was that two-thirds of the way toward completion, the house was $50,000 over budget.  Some of this was his own fault, he says, because of all the "gotta haves" he wanted the house to include.  The other problem was Soriano's notorious inflexibility.  Sensing a crisis at hand, the client took the architect out for coffee to quietly discuss where the project was heading.  Without saying a word, Soriano got up from the table, crossed the street and boarded a bus. Grossman never saw him again.  Grossman picked up where Soriano left off using skills learned in his business and completed "El Paradiso" by himself and insists there are no hard feelings.  "I loved the man," he says.
Now, The Grossman House is on market asking $2,695,000, down from its original price of $2,895,000.  The four bedroom and 3 bathroom mid-century modern is designed within 3,886-square-feet and includes a lovely outdoor area with pool on a 12,541-square-foot lot.  If you are a buyer who would like to set up a viewing of this home, please contact me to set up a private showing appointment.  Recognizing and protecting historic gems like the Grossman House connects us to the past and helps us better understand the present. This is why they are called Historic-Cultural Monuments.  They provide history to a community, as well as serving their original purpose: People live in them.

The exterior continues with a wonderful display of color with verticals painted purple and fascias painted blue, along with accents of gold with the horizontal beams.  All you will need is that connection with El Paradiso's design showcasing a vision of tomorrow from the past.   As like the House of the Future, The Grossman House showcased innovative building materials and a modular approach to design. 

The Grossman's have cherished their home and you can tell by their impeccable maintenance of the home throughout the past decades.  When evaluating whether or not a landmarked property is right for you, it is important to remember that its fate rests in the hands of your stewardship.  The flat-roofed modern has been unspoiled by odd renovations.  Many attributes are in original state including the 28 aluminum sliding glass doors and the decorative aluminum metalwork by the swimming pool.  Simonne Grossman was once quoted saying, "Why tamper with perfection"? 

In 1997, Soriano's aluminum house was declared Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) No. 638 by the city's Cultural Heritage Commission.  Albert and Simonne Grossman, who were friends of Soriano, have lived in the aluminum dwelling at 11468 Dona Cecilia Drive since 1964.  Now, the family is selling the home as it is time to leave this modernist nest they have loved for many years.

Modular Plan Assembly All Aluminum Structures
In 1950, Soriano atteneded the ALCOA (the Aluminum Company of America) Aluminum conference in Boca Raton, FL.  Because of this conference, Soriano felt certain his decision to move on from steel, to aluminum and, hopefully other alloys.  Soriano's first aluminum building design was the Adolph's Office Building and Laboratory in Burbank, CA (1953-58), since destroyed by fire.  ALCOA's Creative Conference on Housing in 1957 moved Soriano further towards aluminum houses, resulting in the Modular Plan Assembly All Aluminum Structures which he developed in the early 1960s.  Designed to the last detail, priced and even weighed, these structures lent themselves to a broad range of housing arrangements. Sadly, during the more than ten years that Soriano promoted his "All Aluminum Home" building system program, only twelve of the houses were built.  Eleven homes (1962-1965) built in Maui, HI were flawed due to poor assembly and construction of the homes.  The Maui homes known as the "Soria Structures," would eventually sell to a Dutch investor shortly after completion and then altered with the addition of tiki roofs and neon signs.
"Soria Structures", Raphael S. Soriano, Architect - Maui, HI - 1965
For 30 years, from his early days with Neutra, to his final aluminum houses erected on Maui, he worked to develop a way of building which he thought best suited the modern world.  Asked about Soriano, Craig Ellwood later wrote:
"One of Soriano's major accomplishments is the simple fact that he preserved and got his buildings built.  Even if he had to build them himself.  In proving their construction possible within reasonable costs, he also showed us an exciting alternative to California's hodgepodge of hammer and saw nonsense - he showed us a valid residential esthetic could be produced with industrial techniques.  The fact that his designs became reality probably influenced in one manner or another all of us who followed."

Brief Biography
Raphael S. Soriano, F.A.I.A.

Raphael S. Soriano, F.A.I.A. (1904 - 1988)
Greek-born Raphael S. Soriano enrolled in the University of Southern California's School of Architecture in 1929 and graduating in 1934.  Upon Soriano gaining U.S. Citizenship in 1930, he secured an internship with Richard Neutra in 1931.  While assisting Neutra, he worked along fellow interns Gregory Ain and Harwell Hamilton Harris.  Soriano would also take on an internship with modernist architect, Rudolph Schindler in 1934.  His first residential commission was in 1936 with his Lipetz House, which appeared in the 1937 International Architectural Exhibition in Paris.  By the end  of the 1940's, Soriano completed the award-winning Katz House, located in Studio City.  
Case Study House 1950, Raphael S. Soriano, F.A.I.A.
The war had ended and more opportunities were at hand with more of his buildings being constructed.  He was given a great opportunity in 1950 to work with John Entenza and the magazine, Arts and Architecture, a think-tank for progressive thinkers of design and architecture.  He was asked to create Case Study House 1950.  The modular design kept true to his earlier work.  The Case Study House 1950 was of a modest rectangular two bedroom plan enveloping the Santa Monica mountains.  

In 1950, Soriano also was given a residential commission for architectural photographer, Julius ShulmanThe Shulman House was built in the Pacific Palisades and is also recognized as a Historic-Cultural Monument.
Julius Shulman House, (1947-1950) - Raphael S. Soriano, Architect
Soriano was made a Fellow by the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) in 1961.

Of the 50 buildings Soriano built, only 12 remain; the others have succumbed to wildfire, earthquake, or demolition. Among the survivors, a number endured unsympathetic make-overs and additions. Those still intact and unmolested are now protected by municipal preservation codes. The Grossman House is the last house to have had its original owners of a Soriano building still occupying the design.  A collection of Soriano papers resides at the College of Environmental Design Resource Center at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona).

Soriano died in 1988 at the age of 83, leaving a pioneering legacy of metal-framed houses conceived in a staunchly Modernist style that emphasized flat roofs and ribbon windows.

Listing and photos courtesy of MLS and Ben Di Benedeto - KWSC