David Hertz Architects FAIA & The Studio of Environmental Architecture


Located in Mar Vista, a suburban section of Los Angeles, this home was built for two documentary filmmakers. Originally the property consisted of a vacant lot, and an adjacent lot containing a traditional craftsman house and duplex. The clients desired to create a multi-generational family compound; utilizing the existing structures and building a residence and studios on the vacant lot where they could both live and work.

The lots are deep and provided ample room to build the two-structure dwelling connecting the two-story studio and residence by an exterior catwalk above and outdoor garden below. The lot slopes away from the street and in order to compensate for the grading, the rear building has a subterranean basement that rises above ground bringing the first floor to grade. The lap pool also utilizes the slope. It begins level at grade and rises out of the ground to form a bench. The studio contains a subterranean level used for archival film and art storage. A studio and screening room occupy the first level, the second level houses a studio and also provides access to the roof decks and the catwalk connecting it to the main residence.

The main residence’s entry vestibule, accessed from the side via the shared driveway, has a floating wood stair and blurs the indoor/outdoor threshold by continuing the exterior garden indoors. The living room steps down with the grade, allowing for higher ceilings. The fireplace has a concrete hearth that wraps around to create a bench and window seat.

Three story glass stairwells double as a light tower and ventilation shaft by incorporating glass panes with varying opacity and operable skylights. The master bedroom is accessed through a hallway, containing floor to ceiling bookshelves that house the clients’ antique book collection. The ceiling is exposed wood, and clerestory windows around the perimeter provide natural lighting and ventilation.

Solar power is used both for hydronic radiant heating and to heat the pool. The laundry room has a solar window where clothes can be dried naturally. Exposed concrete floors with radiant heating provide for a non-toxic easily cared for surface. The project is exemplary in the way it combines living and working space, utilizing natural light, ventilation and non-toxic humble materials for a low maintenance and economically built project.


lebrun house

An existing house and duplex in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles were adaptively reused to realize a live-work, multi-generational family compound. The result is a composition of articulated rectilinear forms situated in a verdant garden. These plantings continue inside the building, blurring the distinction with the outside.

A high vestibule articulated by a grid of asymmetrical panes signifies the entryway. The three-story stairwells operate as light towers and ventilation shafts, providing occupants with natural light and air. Solar energy heats a hydronic radiant system as well as the pool, and the laundry room features a solar window where clothes can be dried naturally.

Project Details

Year: 2003
Location: Mar Vista, CA
Typology: single family residence
Program: 2 bed, 2 bath, 2 half bath
Size: 4,400 sqft
Sustainable Features:
  • photovoltaic panels
  • hydronic radiant heating
  • solar chimneys
  • natural ventilation
  • Photography: Fawn Art