This project attempts to condense and refract recent developments in the social structure and living patterns of a typical residential area. The neighborhood is organized by main public streets fronting small single family houses built mostly in the 1940’s. In recent years, a growing number of young professionals have infiltrated the area and have required more space and different living arrangements than those afforded by the original buildings. Rather than simply adding rooms or second floors to the primary house, many have chosen to construct second, detached buildings, often adjoining the garage. This development reflects a new condition characterized by people who work at home, have live-in child care, or require rental income on space that they might eventually want to use themselves. These pressures have transformed the parameters of the single family house, making it into a hybrid space that has a complex hierarchy of public to semi-private to fully private functions. New ways of considering matters of frontality, circulation, community and privacy emerge as primary design considerations.
Although the area is filled mostly with single family houses and abuts the historic Canal district of Venice, several of the larger thoroughfares, including that adjacent to this project, have long stretches of 2 and 3 story condominiums. A significant yet neglected feature of the neighborhood as a whole are the alleys that serve as secondary circulation, access for utilities, and supplemental parking. Traditionally, these alleys have been hard edged, bounded by garages, high fences and gates. As additions to the garages are built, however, the alleys become primary entrances for the new structures and the 2-dimensions of the old fences have become fully 3-dimensional facades and independent urban scape elements. Balancing this development are hedges and fences which, no longer relegated to the rear, have begun to appear on the main streets as well. These changes obliterate the usual clarity of residential neighborhoods, creating instead complex orientations, ambivalent hierarchies, and residual spaces that in fact are dominant.
The building is organized around a residual glassed-in space that serves as primary circulation. This space, conceptually open to the sky, recalls the new outdoor room that will exist between the original house and the garage addition. Because the site is a corner lot, the alley wall extends around the new structure to become the primary street facade as well as reinforcing its role as a back fence and alley edge. Programatically, this zone is the “servant”, containing the bathroom, storage and utilities. The main space of the structure, although on the interior of the lot, serves as the primary facade for the outdoor room. Thus, relations between primary, secondary and residual spaces are complexly entangled in the project and parallel the organization of the site as a whole.
The irregular and dynamic shapes used, suggest not only the continually changing nature of these architectural and contextual constraints, but the ambivalence of single structures that contain semi-autonomous parts. Although the single family home and the archetypal residential neighborhood used to be the architectural signs of family coherence and community stability, today’s rapid innovations and transformations in these issues demands more subtle and complex architectural solutions.