Hermosa Beach, CA
Custom Single Family
Photography: Tom Bonner

Hermosa Beach is a hilly community of small lots with ocean views and offshore breezes. The significant features of the site are its topography, its winds, and its view. The architects thought of these qualities as representative of the basic elements of “earth, air, and water”. These basic elements along with immediate site considerations became tools to order and locate the components required to make the house.

The site conditions are that of a sloping lot with sweeping ocean views. The property has a large house to the north, a smaller house to the south, a quiet community street to the east (to be used for pedestrian entry), and a noisy street to the west (to be used for automobile access).

Growing out of the site’s infill nature, and the requirements for retaining walls, are two large weathered walls that provide the house with a metaphoric anchor to the earth. In addition, these walls reflect the directional quality of the ocean view, and provide the needed privacy from the neighbor. The steel frame structure originates from the desire for view, ventilation and openness from end to end, and the frame’s repetitive three-meter spacing allows for consistent lateral support and span.

The folded copper roof is the dominant formal element of the Tordella house and the primary manifestation of the house’s “elemental” nature. The roof’s undulating planes are a direct symbol for the earthen sand dunes, the ocean waters, and the rippling winds. Additionally, the roof is a direct reflection of the preexisting topography (derived from the city’s method for determining the height limit). Functionally it captures the breezes, provides protection form the sun, direction for the views, and shading for the glass facade.

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