Article No: 286

2011-01-04 12:40:41

The Christie Residence in Palm Springs, Calif., received the Design Award of Honor in the residential category in the 2010 National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) Design Award competition because the architect blended concrete block seamlessly with the goal to capture the feel of the 1960s and embrace the surrounding environment.

The spectacular views of the San Jacinto Mountains and the vast Coachella Valley below surround this 1960s era house. Architect James Schmidt, AIA of Schmidt Architecture in Studio City, Calif., designed the 3,217-square-foot home as a long, linear bar to maximize the picturesque scenery from the primary living areas.

However, Schmidt said he also wanted to use materials and a design that broke down the barrier between the interior and exterior living spaces. Schmidt selected polished concrete floors, walnut casework and concrete masonry throughout the house to capture the mid-century feel of Palm Springs.

Following World War II, the Palm Springs area saw tremendous growth for vacationing families and wealthy individuals. The elongated entry walk with its burnished, stacked block wall, floating roof canopy and spider-leg columns is reminiscent of the numerous public buildings, hotels and residences around town from the 1960s.

The pivot doors reflect the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and the early modernists. The simple, clean lines evoke a simpler time. In the heyday of the 1960s, architects commonly used patterns of concrete block in their designs.

The concrete masonry walls were designed using a typical 6-inch and 8-inch burnished block. Burnished concrete block was chosen for its rich texture, which reflects the color and pattern of the desert, yet added a refined finish. In addition, the size of the blocks broke down the scale of the walls and provided flexibility to easily accommodate the 9-, 20- and 13-foot and higher ceilings throughout the home.

The block walls provide architectural massing that serves as an anchoring counterpoint to the floating roof plans and the abundant walls of glass, Schmidt said.The home is 50 percent glass and needed a solid material to stabilize it.

Structural burnished block was used in the entryway because Schmidt wanted to showcase the texture of the units and also develop a sense of mystery as visitors enter the home. The interior hallway features burnished block as a structural wall that showcases the richness of the material as a backdrop to the gallery. The fireplace walls and columns at the back of the house between the pivot doors were constructed of structural wood and steel and then covered with a burnished block veneer.

Solterra Development of Palm Springs was the general contractor as well as the masonry contractor; Zeyad Faqih of Palm Desert, Calif., was the engineer; and the block producer was Orco Block of Stanton, Calif.

Considering Palms Springs severe climate, Schmidt used deep overhangs, thick block shade fins and pivot doors to capture the cooling northern breezes to temper the interior temperatures of the home. Aside from the inherent thermal mass qualities of the concrete block, the material was a logical choice because it is durable enough to handle the physical abuse of extreme climates in the area.

The National Concrete Masonry Association Design Award jurors selected this residence for the highest award in the Residential Category because the concrete block seamlessly blends with the architects goal to capture the feel of the 1960s and embrace the surrounding environment.