Los Angeles’ newest multi-family dwelling strikes a balance between eco-functionality and elegant aesthetics.
By Annette Maxon
Some move to the city to escape nature for obvious reasons: dirt, bugs, lack of cell phone service—need I say more? Then there are those who pack up and leave the city behind so that they can connect with nature. When they do so, however, they sacrifice the city’s magnetic energy and cultural epicenter. In 2016, SFMoMA proved that the traditional rural-urban divide can be blurred when they unveiled Habitat Horticulture, a wall composed entirely of living plants. Two years later, Amazon followed suit with the Spheres—a veritable jungle nestled in downtown Seattle. These commercial ventures mirrored a trend that was already spreading abroad. Architects were beginning to meld living elements with Modern architecture, seeking ways to inject life into their inorganic designs.
Cue Gardenhouse—a towering 48,000 square-foot village that sprouted up along Beverly Hills’ Wilshire Boulevard this past May. Mirroring the lush greenery of Milan’s Vertical Forest, an urban structure with 14,000 living plants growing out of its metal structure, Gardenhouse boasts a similar integration of nature with a gradient of green succulents and native flora spanning its exterior walls. But architect Ma Yansong of MAD Architects took the plant-forward design a step further by saturating the structure with sustainable functionality. Take for instance the lush exterior walls, an element that is equally important in keeping the interior units cool and establishing the structure’s aesthetic.
The American debut for Yansong, his intentionality is clear: to bridge inanimate structures with the surrounding environment just as Gardenhouses’ design strives to connect the building with its inhabitants. An array of single-family villas, condominiums, studio apartments huddle around a central courtyard and ground floor shops, striking a balance between privacy and community for tenants. The 18 residential units boast massive windows overlooking the building’s central courtyard, integrating natural materials and views of the exterior gardens into the indoors’ luxurious design. The minimalist interiors are outfitted with marble countertops and imported Italian cabinets, subtle features that merely accentuate the treetops visible through the massive angular windows. The greenery masks all traces of the cityscape, making the home feel more like a retreat into nature than an urban dwelling.
The first state-side iteration of natural architecture in multi-family residences, Gardenhouse is an experiment in bringing the outdoors into architecture and raising awareness of the connection between nature and urban life. “I wanted to create a building with human spirit and emotion at its core,” explains Yansong in the project’s press release. The reception so far? Well, on a coast heralded for its design mavens and nature enthusiasts, the Gardenhouse’s aesthetic is sure to be a crowd favorite.
For more contemporary homes that merge Modernism with nature, visit 360modern.com.