The Silverlake Duplex is conceived as an affordable but spacious version of a “chic” urban live/work environment that might appeal to younger professionals, once termed yuppies, but now lower expectations and more edge have turned them into slacker/hackers. In particular, this audience is being dispossessed of its traditional home on the westside (Santa Monica) by rising land values and being forced to relocate inland. Silverlake is a destination of choice for these refugees, combining an urban grittiness with lower prices and more rural topography. Signs of this migration include new restaurants and art gallery/coffee houses, tattoo parlors, and instances of “interesting” architecture.
The Silverlake Duplex provides for many valences of privacy and flexibility so often demanded of alternative domesticity today, by combining the large open space of the urban loft typology with the compartmentalization usually associated with a traditional three-bedroom house. The two main bedrooms are connected by a “swing room” that can be opened up for use as a convenient office space, an extra bedroom, or simply to expand the second bedroom into a more sizable space. Similarly, the kitchen can either open up to the loft-style living space or be closed off with sliding panels.
Given many constraints such as site and city code requirements, the duplex has demanded a great deal of design agility. Located on a 2:1 slope directly fronting a busy street, the Silverlake Duplex lays out on three levels: parking at the street level, bedrooms and bathrooms at the second level, and a large loft-style space at the top lit by a 16x30’ window-wall on the slope side. By locating the window-wall on the rear side, the noise from Hyperion Avenue is mitigated while a generous, but private, openness to the yard characteristic of California architecture is maintained. Bridges from the upper level of each unit access the yard in back.
This window wall, and the five-foot circulation area adjacent to it, becomes the hot zone, where most of the architecture is concentrated. Here are found the steel sunshade louvers, stairs and guardrail wall system, sliding wall panels, exposed ductwork and mechanical equipment. In contrast, the remainder of the structure is finished with extreme simplicity and restraint. By its arrangement in the building, an explicit critique of humanity’s position in the world is embodied: nature in the backyard is literally viewed through a dense screen of mediating technology.