Modern residential architecture is defined by a number of different characteristics. One of the most important of these is the care that we as architects take in designing a structure that can coexist with its landscape, without superseding it. The result of this approach to architecture can be breathtaking. That’s why it forms such an integral part of our design philosophy and approach.
A lot of our work is about the site and its views, whether it’s the ocean, the mountains, the blue sky, a tree, etc. When we begin a project, we first start by understanding the site that the home will exist on. By understanding the physical location and the views that it offers, it’s possible for us to design a home that accentuates and highlights that view instead of one that obscures it. The point is not to “create” a view, but to use architecture to frame a view that already exists in a way that preserves and enhances its beauty.
At the same time, we aim to enhance the choreography of the home—the way in which the residents interact with and move throughout the house. By framing views in this way, it’s possible to blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor space and encourage that natural flow that is so emblematic of California modernism.
Below, we take a look at some of the ways that we are able to use design and architecture to frame views for our clients.
A framed view can take many different forms, depending on the characteristics of the site and the goals of the homeowner.
Some of the simplest of framed views are created with windows. A large picture window or a glass wall capable of sliding away can do an excellent job of framing the landscape, so long as they are fully considered before the design is complete.
But just as not all windows are the same, not all views offered by windows are the same. A seamless glass window spanning floor to ceiling, for example, serves to remove the boundaries between inside and out. In this case, the eye is allowed to wander; the view bleeds away and is not enclosed in any way. The bathroom window below is a prime example of this effect, creating a serene moment overlooking the ocean.
On the other hand, a window with a strong border by its very nature constrains the view. This has the effect of forcing the viewer’s eye on a particular point, in much the same way a mural might. The window in the Emerald Bay house, for example, features a strong black border against a white background, which draws the eye to the contents of the view.
A strategically placed corridor can serve to frame a view in much the same way as a window does, but serves a secondary purpose as well. An intentionally designed corridor can have the effect of drawing a person through it, from one point of the house into another, often in dramatic ways.
For example, see how the two corridors below use light, shadow, and constraint to draw the viewer’s eye—and their feet—toward the end point.
It’s also possible to use framed views to present the same space from different perspectives. The home below, for example, features an interior courtyard as a central piece of its design. When the courtyard is approached from different areas of the home, it is presented differently due to how the space is framed.
In the top photo, the tree in the courtyard takes center stage. It is the focal point of the view, beckoning the viewer to come outside and enjoy its shade. In the bottom photo, however, the tree is somewhat diminished. It shrinks away, allowing the natural sunlight and open space to take the spotlight.
And finally, the structure of the home itself can be used to facilitate the enjoyment of the view. In the Irvine Cove residence, below, it’s possible to stand in the backyard and look through the home’s form to see the ocean in the distance. This is facilitated by two large, retractable glass walls, which serve to open the home and its yard up into a single space.
Just as the presence of walls and boundaries frames a view, the lack of those walls opens a view up, making it possible for a home to frame a view without actually enclosing it with architecture. In the Spring Road residence, below, we see the same view, offered in two ways.
First, we see it from the perspective of the living room, where it is constrained by the frames of the windows. Then, we see it unconstrained, as enjoyed from the outdoor space of the deck. In this way, it’s possible to enjoy the same view—the same space—in a plethora of ways.
Whether it is created by using a window, a corridor, or the structure of home itself, we use framing views in our design to capture the beauty of the natural landscape without destroying it, without creating it. We are simply drawing attention to the elegance which already exists, but which is easily overlooked.
It’s about tying the home back to the reason you fell in love with the location in the first place—that tree, that shoreline, that mountain that inspired you to build your home.
Natalie LaHaie is the Business Development and Marketing Director at Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (EYRC). She is a graphic designer by trade and a natural strategic thinker, employing design to express vision, direction, and values. With over a decade of experience in the field of architecture and design, she admires the role of architecture in bringing people together from all backgrounds and walks of life - specifically through community, education, and civic buildings.