Page C1.1 . 03 December 2008                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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Residential Reclamations

by James McCown

It's a spacious, imposing Los Angeles residence that has a central courtyard with lush vegetation and a cooling fountain. But don't look for palm trees or swimming pools or movie stars — this is no stereotypical Southern California abode.

Meike Kopp lives in the Huron Substation, a decommissioned 1906 electric power substation in Los Angeles's Cypress Park neighborhood. While she's owned and occupied the space for a few years, Kopp is still working with city officials to get the building up to code and make it a permanent, and one-of-a-kind, nest for herself and her 11-year-old son.

"Everything in Los Angeles is so brand-spanking new," says Kopp. "This has the feeling of a great European church. The ceiling of the main space is 45 feet [14 meters] high, and at night the moonlight comes in through the upper windows and it's amazing."

The ambience of the place is no trivial matter for Kopp, a single mother who is retrofitting the substation on a shoestring budget. She helps pay the mortgage by renting out the building for fashion shoots, weddings, and film shoots.

"It was John Cusack's loft in Must Love Dogs," Kopp says.

The idea of converting former industrial and commercial spaces into multifamily residences dates at least back to the 1960's and New York's SoHo neighborhood. Now virtually every large city in the United States has one or more multiunit "loft" developments that seek to attract the young and the artsy with a combination of grit and chic.

But even in the growing world of adaptive reuse, Kopp is part of a rarer breed — those adventurous souls who undertake a complete transformation of a building into a single-family residence.   >>>

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ArchWeek Image

The Huron Substation (1906), a former power substation in Los Angeles, is slowly being transformed into a home by the building's current owner, Meike Kopp.
Photo: James Sanford Extra Large Image

ArchWeek Image

Inside the Huron Substation, modern additions respect the building's industrial origins.
Photo: Courtesy Meike Kopp


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