I wonder how this is built

by Lorin Michel Friday, July 17, 2015 10:01 PM

Our house sits atop a hill. The views to the south are incredible, giving us the ability to see outwards of 240º when we stand on the deck. When we stand in the kitchen or the dining room and look to the north, we look up a hillside populated with rock and cactus. We see the occasional deer crossing above. A family of quail appears nearly every night around 6:30. From this hillside comes the tortoise.

When we first found this property, we were amazed at the view but also at the fact that no one had built on it. It was nearly 4 acres of lush – if you can use the word lush in the desert – land with a ready made road leading to it and an area partially cleared for the pad. For three years we marveled at our luck. When we finally started building in 2013 we quickly found out why it had been sitting vacant. It’s a very difficult lot to build on. It rises nearly 100 vertical feet from the road below, twisting and turning up. Big trucks did not like it. We had many that simply refused to come up. Dirt was dropped in big piles at the bottom of the road and moved up scoop by scoop by a loader. The first lumber truck that arrived turned around, saying no. When we tried to get our tile delivered, the guy had a big pick up and a trailer. There was no way if he got up that he could get down. We lost two trucks over the side that ended up cab-down in the desert. Luckily no one was hurt.

Because of the difficulty in building, it took longer than we anticipated but once it was done we were thrilled. We had our house, we had our view. Yes, we’d made many enemies of many sub-contractors, but it was worth it.

In the north east, when you see a steep, twisting road with a house at the end the first thing you think is: That must be a bitch in winter. Now when we see a road like that we think, they can’t possibly build up there. If there’s already a house we wonder how they managed it and how many trucks they destroyed in the process.

Which brings me to this:

This is Casa Brutale, a proposed home assembled on the edge of a cliff and disappearing down into the rock. It has a swimming pool for a roof with extra re-enforced glass, two bedrooms once you descend, a sculpted fireplace, a kitchen and dining area with concrete tables and benches, and an entire wall of glass looking out at the world. Hidden from view, it has stairs that descend next to the pool. It has to be built in a particular type of rock so the firm that designed it, Open Platform for Architecture, is looking for investors and thinking about Greece. Imagine this overlooking the Mediterranean. Imagine.

It’s designed in the Brutalist architecture model, meaning it’s bold, brash and confrontational. It doesn’t mean it’s brutal; the brutalism actually comes from the French béton-brut, which means raw concrete. It was very popular in the 1950s through the 1970s. It’s very sculptural, harsh and impossible to look away from.

I wondered about this brutal home, brutal to live in, more brutal to build. I wondered who could afford it. Where they would grocery shop. How they would get their mail delivered. I was fascinated, as someone who had, in contrast, a moderately difficult home to build. I wondered and stared at the image.

Ultimately I decided that I would have to stick with my house on a hill. Casa Brutale doesn’t have a garage and a three-car garage is a must.

Celebrating my wonder and other’s creativity, and the idea of living out loud on the side of a cliff. Fascinating.

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live out loud

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