September 1, 2020
MAD Architects, led by Ma Yansong, has completed ‘Gardenhouse’ in California’s Beverly Hills, the firm’s first project in the United States.
Gardenhouse is a mixed-use scheme consisting of 18 residential units above a ground floor dedicated to commercial use. Evoking the lush landscape of Beverly Hills, the scheme becomes a ‘hillside village’ with residential units ‘growing’ from the building’s living wall. Peaking above the landscaped envelope, a cluster of white, irregular-shaped windows, and gabled-roof structures create a dynamic neighborhood, and a playful, witty, though simple, homage to the iconic hillsides of Los Angeles.
Upon completion, the scheme will host one of the largest green walls in the country. This defining envelope is covered in plantings of native, drought-tolerant succulents and vines, whose familiarity to the local climate negates the need for extra irrigation and maintenance. The result is a unique texture forming an organic, natural, seasonal addition to the neighborhood streetscape.
The 4460-m2 (48,000-sf) hillside village offers a variety of different housing typologies: two studios, eight condominiums, three townhouses, and five villas. This mixture results in a high sense of community, and a feeling of individuality and exclusiveness even in this small-scale development. Unlike traditional apartment schemes, each unit has its own independent entry/exit circulation route, while almost every unit features a pitched-roof volume with dynamic interior expressions.
Enclosed by this cluster of white, pitched-roofed ‘houses,’ the second floor courtyard forms a central, landscaped gathering space for the small community. With careful consideration given to the distance, orientation, and arrangement of balconies overlooking the courtyard, the result is a private, tranquil, convenient interaction between residents and the ‘secret garden,’ which they share.
Residents of Gardenhouse are welcomed via a ground-floor entrance. The entrance adopts the atmosphere of a cave digging into the hillside; a dim environment where residents are led on a journey through a ‘fairyland’ of light, shadow, and the sound of water. Further ahead, the softness of the cave meets a bright conclusion, with natural light flooding through a connected water feature from the courtyard patio above.
Through Gardenhouse, MAD seeks to offer a rebuttal to the stereotypical cubic-box living environments of high-density cities across the world. An intrinsic connection with nature, with a tranquil, shared courtyard and private outdoor space for each unit, creates a calm oasis just meters away from the urban environment. The result is a physical manifestation of the idea that architecture can connect with both the built and natural environment, to offer a fuller, harmonious living experience, MAD Architects said.
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