Schlagwort-Archive: malibu

Beach Houses in Los Angeles


The beach is one of the Four Ecologies of Los Angeles as described by Banham. He states that the Angelenos like to spend a lot of time by the water. Banham compares the surfboard with the, for Los Angeles crucial, automobile. He writes that the Angeleno is ‘most himself’ when he is either on the Freeway or on the beach[1].

Needless to say, there are quite a few dwellings near the seafront of the Pacific Ocean, where people wanted to settle.

Some of the wealthier citizens might even own multiple houses. One on the beach and one in another part of the city. Like the physician Philip Lovell who commissioned a house near Griffith Park in the foothills by Richard Neutra and a Beach House by Rudolph Schindler, located in Newport Beach, California. Sadly we could not visit the latter on our trip.


Richard Neutra, Lovell Health House, CC by Viola Menzendorff

During our stay in Los Angeles we got to see some examples of life on the beach. The houses in – and around – Los Angeles show a lot of diversity. We stayed in Santa Monica, in walking distance to the beach. To get there we had to cross the well-known Pacific Coast Highway, which starts at approximately the middle of Santa Monica’s coastline.

When following the little Ocean Front Walk, heading north from Santa Monica Pier, one finds a few small houses. Those only grow bigger further down when the California Incline joins the Highway. This is where the jumble of people – mostly tourists – gets less bundled.

The Highway leaves Santa Monica behind at that point, and the beaches turn narrower, until there are only public beaches, lookouts and cafés or restaurants to be found.

Following the Pacific Coast Highway further, one reaches Malibu. This is where the famous ‘Billionaire’s Beach’, or Carbon Beach is located. House prices there are high and there is a good chance to be living door to door with a celebrity. There, the estates sit directly on the beach, with private exits through the backyards. The beach has only been open to the public for a short period of time.


Malibu Beach, CC by Viola Menzendorff

The individual sites are a lot larger than the slightly packed ones in Santa Monica and the houses are more spacious. Most of the properties seem quite plain when passed by on the highway, where one can only make out closed up façades and front doors. The buildings open up towards the sea though, with huge windows and glass doors, impressive façade designs and backyards.

One of those is the Segel House by the architect John Lautner, which is being discussed in its own blog entries.

John Lautner, Segel House, CC by Viola Menzendorff

If you head the opposite way from Santa Monica Pier, down south, you will find more story buildings, mostly occupied by restaurants and hotels. Adjacent to Santa Monica is Venice. Here, one can visit the well-known Venice Beach, where Muscle Beach is located next to alternative shops, and people sitting on the foot walk vending DIY products and junk goods. Behind all the touristy bustle there is a closely-built row of one family houses. The design and layout of which vary a lot, fitting into the alternative and experimental environment of Venice Beach.

The architect Frank O. Gehry uses this as a site for one of his most salient designs. Oddly, this little Beach House does not even stand out a lot, but rather matches the surroundings.

Frank O. Gehry, Beach House, CC by Viola Menzendorff

[1] Banham, Reyner: Los Angeles. The Architecture of Four Ecologies, University of California Press, Los Angeles, 1971, S.203.


Viola Menzendorff

John Lautner, Segel House, Malibu, 1979

Segel House by John Lautner

John Lautners Segel House is situated directly on the beach in Malibu.

Segel House, View from the beach

The entrance of the privately owned home is on the Pacific Coast Highway making it difficult to view the house, due to constant traffic on the road.

Through a public beach access visitors can view the back of the house, which opens onto the ocean. The stretch of beach onto which the house looks has only been open to the public for a short time.
Segel House

The length of the house is hidden from view by trees and the homes on neighboring properties. The size of the house, which is placed diagonally on the lot, is only imaginable when viewing it from above.

John Lautner’s Segel House seems to mimic the waves of the ocean it looks upon. The curved form of the roof and the mirrored windows literally reflect the oceans movements. The windows open large views of the beach and ocean, but do not allow gazes from the outside to enter the private living area of the home.

View of the ocean from the Segel House

Seeing the building in person it appears much larger than in photographs. The curved form seems very organic. The beach is on a level lower than the house.

Segel House

The house is not open to tours from the public which makes a visit to the site a rather frustrating endeavor.

Visiting the house did not give me a much better understanding of the building as all that was visible was the same view one sees in photographs.

Despite not seeing much of the building, photographing it during our sunset visit was satisfying as the different materials of the building reacted to the light in interesting ways. The glass front reflected the light, while the wood seemed to glow and the concrete and metal seemed immune to the warmth of the sunset. Do to the low level of the beach as compared to the level of the house it is quite difficult to get a picture of the entire building.