Reuse Existing Buildings: The Revival of Mid-Century Modernism

Reuse Existing Buildings: The Revival of Mid-Century Modernism

Cambria Bold
Oct 16, 2009
(Welcome to Kristina, one of the finalists for our Green Architect blogger search. She's writing from Los Angeles. Comment away!)

Sixty years ago developer Joseph Eichler left his memorable mark on southern California cityscapes by establishing extensive quarters of affordable, architecturally significant residences. Supported by some of the region's notable mid-century architects, Eichler created stylish homes with modern features, open floor plans, and plenty of room to enjoy the local climate. Unique facades, breezy interiors, soaring ceilings and characteristic glass atriums are the characteristics that make Eichlers as popular and desirable today as they were when first erected in post-war suburbs half a century ago...

In their quest to transform their recently acquired Eichler residence in Granada Hills into an environmentally friendly and healthy living environment, a German-American couple saw an excellent opportunity to merge mid-century modern design with the contemporary need to live in a healthy and sustainable environment. Goal was to maintain the format and the spirit of the house, while modernizing building systems, finishes and materials in making the home more eco-friendly.

First the existing roof had to be improved. The existing structure was upgraded with an insulating foam roof and a reflecting finish to avoid any urban heat island effect. To cover most of the buildings energy use, a local company installed a photovoltaic system on the north east corner of the roof, out of reach of the shadow pattern originating from adjacent tall tree and out of sight from the historic preserved street view. Hot water solar panels on the south-facing pitch of the roof provide all of the energy necessary to heat the pool. Under the roof, windows were replaced with operable better insulated windows to allow for better thermal control, day lighting and natural ventilation across the residence.

Eichler's signature central courtyard connects the living spaces intimately with the outdoors, giving transparency across the house. Two small bedrooms were joined to form one generous space the couple will use as their home office. The characteristic inner courtyard of the Eichler residence therefore functions as common entrance to both, home and workplace.

These homes were among the first mass-produced homes in California to use many of the things that are now commonplace: sliding glass doors, build-in range and oven, metal cabinets and radiant heat in floors. By the time of his death in 1974, Eichler had commissioned 11.000 distinctive homes throughout California. The Nanette Residence takes Eichler's version one step further, updating, rethinking and restoring a legend for the 21st century.


Images by Kristina Hahn

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