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Coconut House by Cara Lee (M.Arch ’96)


Los Angeles, CA

2006 AIA National Housing Award

Living Size: 1800 Sqft.


As an infill project within a densely populated residential area of Los Angeles, it is built on a sub-standard lot (25’x100’). The client was a single woman in her 60’s with a desire for a ‘home’, a typology of familiarity was introduced to provoke an inner childhood yearning for “HOME”…traditional pitched roof, view window to street, and chimney.

Optimal conditions demanded from this dwelling is translated into a volumetric expression in a literal and metamorphic language: SHELL(TER).

A linear approach from the street leads to the point of arrival, situated at the middle core of the house. At the entry, one steps into nature: COURTYARD.

Through subtracting volumes from the building mass, light, air, and nature penetrate deeply into the living space, the spatiality extends beyond its moderate volume. These deliberate openings blur the boundary of the narrow lot, yet shield it from exposure to neighbors, who are an arms-reach away, and the busy street.

The hues of light illuminate the inner core of the dwelling, flirting with light coming through the skylight and the louvers of the courtyard.  The interior reflects the infinite change of light and shadow evolving throughout the day, while a sense of privacy wraps around the dwelling.  The facade of dark fiber panels with natural wood veneer emulates the tough shell of a “COCONUT”, which plays a role of security in a physical and psychological manner.  This maintenance-free facade will eliminate the use of petroleum products, such as paints and sealers, for many years.


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This article was written on 21 Jan 2013, and is filled under Alumni Work.