At one with the scenery

This home nestles into its promontory site while topographical fingers flow back into the plan, expanding connection to the canyon setting

Designed by David Pascu, Abramson Architects

From the architects:


An entrepreneurial family with a passion for healthy living requested a large home on their dramatically sloping .8 hectare site.

They wanted an informal layout woven into the topography.

They also wished to enjoy as much of the site as possible, requiring the inclusion of steps and landscape pathways that lead to more distant parts of the steep site.

Situated on a promontory jutting into the canyon below, the hillside retreat boasts multiple vistas of the surrounding canyon and the Pacific Ocean beyond.

However, local restrictions allowed for a single storey above street level.

Responding to these conditions, much of the home’s massing is located on a lower-level that daylights onto the downslope side of the house.

This modest massing arrangement allows for neighbouring properties to see over the roof of the home.

In three distinct locations, landscaped topography “fingers” heighten one’s awareness of the panoramic scenery.

Bridges span over these fingers, extending the natural graded areas into the heart of the home.

The design solution offers new perspectives for experiencing the owner’s prized views while providing a glimpse of the topography as it stood before the house was set upon it.

Questions and answers

Project philosophy

The Palisades House appears to emerge from below the surface of an otherwise undisturbed canyon rim.

An entrepreneur and family with a passion for healthy living, the owners envisioned a large, but informal, home woven into the topography of their dramatically sloping .8 hectare site.

A stepped roof plan reduces the 1580m² dwelling’s perceived mass, creating the illusion of several interconnected structures.

The efficient footprint occupies less than 19% of the property and preserves the site’s organic flow, including their neighbour’s views to the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

The use of a simple colour scheme and contemporary materials is central to the design philosophy.

French manor oak flooring, white oak shiplap wall cladding, oil rubbed bronze wall panels and painted steel show deference to the picturesque surroundings.

Pebble and stone accents embrace the nearby mountains, resulting in a material palette that is modern yet warm.

Defining features

Since covenants and restrictions allowed for only a single storey above street level, many of the home’s rooms are located on a lower level which daylights on the downslope side of the house.

The layered design caters to the homeowners’ need for a full-time residence and part-time wellness retreat.

Supporting these goals, a ‘show garage’ doubles as an open-air yoga studio and stepped pathways provide full access to distant parts of the steep site.

Meticulous craftsmanship and authentic building materials are recurring themes best exemplified by the widespread use of board-formed concrete walls, white oak shiplap cladding, and painted galvanised steel doors and windows.

A datum of wall elevations was carefully laid out to align the joints of the seemingly random board-formed concrete with the adjacent wood boards that come in 7.6cm, 10.16cm, 12.7cm”, and 15.24cm widths.

Floors, ceilings, steps, lighting, speakers, keypad controls, and outlets were carefully placed so that no element interrupts a joint in the boards.

Special challenges

The home’s location makes users susceptible to a daily wind pattern that picks up in the early afternoon and recedes during the early evening.

A site-specific solution combines recessed track hardware originally designed as a convention centre wall system with custom aluminium framed ‘windscreen’ panels clad in perforated metal.

Typically stacked against concrete columns when not in use, the homeowner can quickly deploy the 1.2m wide top-hung panels into a series of pre-set positions to counteract the winds or mitigate heat gain.

During wildfire season the site is threatened by blazes capable of rushing up the canyon.

As such, the home’s cladding and landscaping elements consist of non-combustible and ignition resistant materials intended to reduce fuel for the fires.

Resilient design

Special measures were taken by the designers and concrete contractors to reduce the thermal bridging typically associated with reinforced concrete walls.

Before the concrete was poured, 5.8cm thick rigid insulation was placed into the center of the 35cm thick concrete walls.

This results in an increased R-value in the walls without sacrificing the look of a monolithic concrete wall.

A custom stormwater retention system, hydronic in-floor radiant heating, and dedicated solar panels for heating the pool all contribute to the home’s sustainable features.

Credit list

Robin Carmichael, Pamela Burton & Co
Civil engineer
John M. Cruikshank Consultants
Mechanical and plumbing
California Energy Designs
Electrical consultant
Concrete sub
Donald Scheffler
Interior stonework
Elegant Marble
Steel doors and windows
Riviera Bronze
Swiss Woodworking
Millworks by Design
Interior design
Kathleen Clements, Clements Design
AJ Engineering
Structural design
Sigma Design
Esquared Lighting Design
Low voltage
Audio Command Systems
Ron Kazemi
Wood flooring
Steel skylight installation
van Cronenburg Architectural Hardware BVBA
Fireplace art
William Befort
Outdoor heating
Infratech Comfort

Designed by: Abramson Architects

Story by: Trendsideas

Photography by: Roger Davies

17 Oct, 2021

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