Morphosis (Thom Mayne)

Malibu House, Los Angeles, 1987

For Morphosis, the Malibu Beach House materialized a turning point in its architectonic innovation, both in terms of the dimensions tackled (a program of approximately 1120m2), and of the details linking it to the oceanfront site. Located on a narrow plot of land (12.5 x 28m) facing the Pacific Ocean on one side, and the highway on the other, the house is divided lengthwise into two parts, splitting the dwelling into two distinct volumes. Each part takes advantage of the effects of the ocean and resembles the movement of a wave, the first volume taking the form of gigantic curve; the other one, more vertical and fragmented, resembling the curl of a crashing wave and its resulting spray. The constant and mechanical back and forth of the tide and its azure surface can be seen in the model. The project accentuates the linear character of the site. Furnished with pilings that give rhythm to the façade and the approaches, the gradual line of the house is reinforced by pontoons resembling ocean breakers, by the bold advance of the catwalks and by the ship’s rails. The formal expression gives this place an open, floating and vitalistic character. At the same time an attempt has been made, one frequently found in the work of Morphosis, to give the house its own weight, a sort of heaviness, despite the unimposing mass of the materials (wood). The historiographical interest of this model and this project in the theoretical evolution of Morphosis resides in the demonstration of the quasi “primitive” state of a paradoxical determination to anchor, to inscribe into the territory and the earth that is free of the dogmas of modernism (the Terragni grid) or even post-modernism.

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