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    Rediscovering Los Angeles Walk Streets

    by Morris Newman

    Grant Kirkpatrick is not one of LA's architecture fire-breathers, and he hasn't made headlines by designing futuristic blobs. Instead, the architect has done something far more useful: raised the visual standards and the civility of a waterfront neighborhood in Manhattan Beach. Into an otherwise cluttered beachfront known as the "walk streets," Kirkpatrick has introduced clarity and human scale, while reminding both homeowners and passersby of the uniquely public nature of the pedestrian-only streets.

    A case in point is the recently completed Ascher Residence, which may be the most successful beach house by Kirkpatrick Associates Architects. It is certainly the firm's most contextual offering. For this 90-foot- (27-meter) long, three-story elevation, Kirkpatrick has selected the typical elements of vernacular beach housing and made a design that is both artistic and self-aware.

    West-facing balconies with views of the surf are almost universal here, although they tend to look trashy, as if homebuilders had picked up surplus verandas from a demolished apartment building. In contrast, Kirkpatrick has used balconies as a way of introducing voids in an elevation that otherwise would have been monotonously long.

    One of the balconies, in fact, is deep enough to be considered an "outdoor room." This was a requirement of the owner, who had traveled in the South Pacific and requested something like the indoor-outdoor housing of that region.   >>>

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    The Titus house reaches out to pedestrians by offering them a low masonry wall to sit on.
    Photo: Photo: Weldon Brewster

    ArchWeek Image

    Ocean view from the living room of the Titus house.
    Photo: Photo: Weldon Brewster

     

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