Ehrlich Yanai Outside-In: New California Modernism
Steven Ehrlich and Takashi Yanai; Zahid Sardar (Introduction)
The Monacelli Press, April 2019
Hardcover | 9-1/2 x 11-3/4 inches | 240 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1580935029 | $60.00
Recipient of the 2015 Firm Award from the American Institute of Architects, EYRC Architects is internationally recognized for elegant design in a modernist spirit. Residential designs are at the heart of the practice, which now encompasses commercial and institutional projects. Sixteen houses are presented in the book, the majority in Southern California and others near San Francisco and Houston. These designs are characterized by the fusion of powerful, simple forms, with the cultural, climatic, and contextual particulars of place. Accompanying the drawings and luxurious color photography are sketches and source material that reveal the genesis of the design as well as the completed project. As Ehrlich says, “Blurring the boundaries between the built and natural environment, our designs merge California modernism with vernacular design elements. Through details and materials, we maximize the home owner’s connection with the site and natural surroundings.”
Although it’s been a few years since I’ve contributed articles — known as “Ideabooks” — for Houzz, when I think back to it, one of the architects I returned to numerous times was Steven Ehrlich, especially his 700 Palms. Perhaps this frequency stemmed from Houzz being based near San Francisco and therefore attracting many California architects to upload their projects to the site. Whatever the case, Ehrlich made it into my “Regional Modern: Los Angeles” post (part of a series that traversed the US), in which I said he was “clearly inspired by R.M. Schindler” and praised his “carefully composed volumes, surfaces, and openings.” The last — the large openings that connect inside and outside — are particularly important in the context of this monograph, which highlights ten completed and five in-progress single-family houses designed by Ehrlich and Takashi Yanai, who in 2004 joined Ehrlich Architects, now Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (EYRC). Every house — be they on tight urban sites or on generous lots removed from the city — balances modern residential interiors and carefully controlled exterior spaces and vistas. Or as Zahid Sardar writes in his introductory essay, “rather than being mere ‘machines for living” [their houses] are hand-crafted instruments for living in harmony with nature.”
Two houses stand out from the ten finished ones in the book (I’m always drawn to completed work rather than in-progress projects): Ridge Mountain and Spectral Bridge House. Ridge Mountain is a simple bar building enlivened by its cladding of Cor-ten steel, one of my favorite materials (any maybe one of Ehrlich’s, given his use of it at 700 Palms). The house and smaller outbuilding sit in a stunning landscape near Palm Springs, and the design takes advantage of it through a glass wall that slides open to connect the living room with the deck and pool outside. Spectral Bridge House is located in Venice, California, and is therefore on the urban end of EYRC’s residential spectrum. Three volumes askew from each other form outdoor spaces on the long, narrow lot, while a second-floor bridge leading to the master suite turns the house into “an immersive art experience” (the client is an artist). These and the other completed houses are documented with beautiful photographs (any one of them could have graced the cover!) as well as consistently drawn plans, elevations and sections, and descriptive text; the handful of in-progress projects are given the same, with renderings in place of photos. The whole is a solid argument that EYRC is creating some of the best “new California modernism.”
Steven Ehrlich is the founding partner of EYRC Architects … His work has garnered many awards, including the AIA California Maybeck Award and the AIA Los Angeles Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement. Takashi Yanai is a partner at EYRC and has been Residential Studio Director since 2004.