“Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.”
—Frank Lloyd Wright
Los Angeles is the kind of place that people love to hate. There are the obvious attacks which have become boring—the pretension and exclusivity of the film industry, the traffic, and the superficiality of the people; while on the other side, for the people that love it, the obvious go-to defense is the amazing weather. But for those that live, work, and create in LA, there’s something untouchable, indescribable in the atmosphere. Is it the fact that this is a new and international city that lacks Rome and Athens’ ruins (or even the pre-war buildings of New York)? Or does contemporary Los Angeles architecture come from the west-coast mentality of progressive thinking? Is it the cultural diversity or the film industry that people love to complain about? These are all factors, but there’s still that other thing that people can’t put in words—the feeling, that artistic symbiosis that is created when you put all these crazy and talented people together in one place.
That’s the feeling that Sean Briski, the CalArts trained painter and architect, is describing when he talks about Los Angeles. He took some time to speak to TVOA about his artistic approach and philosophy in the creation of his project at 2358 Silver Ridge Avenue, which hit the market this week.
The Value of Architecture: With exposed steel on the exterior, Silver Ridge feels industrial and futuristic on the outside, yet is also very comfortable and inviting all around. Do you have any architectural influences in terms of futurism / deconstructionism?
Sean Briski: I work part time for Eric Owen Moss, and he is a major influence in my work. Eric has been “disruptive” long before the term became popular.
I don’t often think about the future or the past. I try to recognize the contemporary. For this reason I like Los Angeles a lot. The city is a strong influence because there are so many different points of view that it starts to be unknowable. This makes LA amazing.
The Value of Architecture: What do you mean that Los Angeles is unknowable?
Sean Briski: LA is so geographically large it’s not possible to visit all the neighborhoods. It’s also culturally diverse. It’s hard to get the opportunity to get to know most of the cultures in any kind of significant way. So it is literally & culturally very hard to get a complete picture. The unknown is always present.
The size & space allows it to remain unknown. The lack of history gives more freedom. This is very true for architects.
I don’t know of many similarities between LA & New York.
The Value of Architecture: Something striking both visually and environmentally is your use of found materials to construct the house. How did you select the materials to use, and how much did the materials influence your design decisions?
Sean Briski: The shredded tire is a riff on early greenhouses which were made out of tires. Tires are a waste disposal problem. So, by showing that they can be beautiful in the right context, trash is made beautiful. The window next to the stairs is a display window, and the tires are the display object.
The Value of Architecture: In terms of the design process, did you have drawings for a house like this before you saw the site? Or, did the slope in which the house stands force this design upon you?
Sean Briski: I’m not sure how the site could not be a big influence? The house has four floors because that is what was needed in order to connect the backyard to the street. I would have preferred a smaller house but then there would not be the connection to the backyard. And of course, the view is terrific.
The Value of Architecture: Is Silver Lake still a progressive neighborhood architecturally in LA?
Sean Briski: Silver Lake has gotten very expensive. As things get more expensive there tends to be less experimentation, but Silver Lake is still a great place to live.
The Value of Architecture: You’re a trained painter. How does painting inform your architecture, and vice-versa?
Sean Briski: I was an artist who made paintings. I like art that is very grounded in conceptual ideas. I like art or architecture that that make the common seem unfamiliar.
The Value of Architecture: What is architectural modernism to you? And how does contemporary Los Angeles architecture factor into it?
Sean Briski: Architectural modernism is a historical style that spanned from 1920 to 1960. I’m more interested in contemporary architecture.
There should be many futures & access to be able to choose your future. Currently, choice is a real luxury. In the future I hope this is not the case. Architecture should allow people to do things that are currently not a choice. This is why I put basketball hoops in the living room. It’s about more choices. There are 3 hoops because it’s more choice.
By: David Plick