Regional Modern: Climate Fuels L.A.'s Groundbreaking Architecture

Editor's Note: The Regional Modern series focuses on the regional differences in modern and contemporary architecture, countering the impression that "modern" means universal and placeless. In photo tours from Manhattan to Malibu, see how today's innovative homes are influenced by climate, environment, and culture, becoming both private oases and part of a larger landscape we all share.

Los Angeles is home to some of the best modern and contemporary residential architecture in the United States, if not the world. This quality arises from a number of factors: the 72-and-sunny climate and therefore an embrace of outdoor living; the dramatic topography, especially the foothills that open to views of L.A.'s plains; a sprawling urban landscape that invites single-family houses as much as apartments and vertical living; and of course the money that pays for the houses, be it from Hollywood or other local industries.

Yet, like Chicago, the residential climate is also influenced by historical modernists, especially Richard Neutra, R.M. Schindler, and Irving Gill. The last two figures are celebrated in Esther McCoy's indispensable Five California Architects, which also includes Bernard Maybeck, and the Greene brothers.

Gill quietly trailblazed simple unadorned forms before European modernists; R.M. Schindler articulated complex layering of surfaces and indoor and outdoor spaces; and Neutra used glass to open up hillside houses to expansive views, putting L.A. itself on display. More recently, Frank Gehry has left his mark on the city, influencing architects with his sculptural designs.

This gallery focuses on L.A.'s houses removed from the Pacific Ocean, so the next one will feature coastal houses. The inland residences that follow illustrate the various conditions that make L.A. a breeding ground for innovative architecture.


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John Hill is a New York City-based architecture writer for Houzz.com.

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