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Modern Patrons: Moore in Los Angeles
SAHSCC Tour
Saturday, April 30, 2005

Saturday, April 30th, from 2PM to 4PM, Modern Patrons visits the 1977 Charles Moore Triplex in West Los Angeles. This is home to SAH/SCC Advisory Board member Claire Rogger. Tickets for this event are $10 and are reserved for SAH/SCC Patron and Life members. The event will be made available to regular membership on a first-come, first-served basis, should space become available.

Below, architect Michael Franklin Ross gives a brief history of the home. (A version of this article first appeared in the November/December 2004 issue of LA Architect.)

"In 1976, three UCLA professors were renting apartments in Westwood and wondering how they could afford to buy a house near campus in a booming real estate market on a meager professors salary. Sadly, they could not.

Then Claire Rogger and her husband Hans (Professor of Russian History) met Charles W. Moore, FAIA, Chair of the UCLA Department of Architecture and a recent transplant to UCLA from Yale. Charles was already famous for creating homes for himself with limited funds in Orinda, CA, and at Sea Ranch while teaching at Berkeley, as well as two remodeled residences in New Haven while Dean at Yale. Why should Westwood be any different?

The fact is, real estate costs made building a custom home in West Los Angeles prohibitive. Claire and Hans couldn't afford it, and neither could Charles. Then, Claire found a site zoned R-3 in west LA, opposite the Mormon Temple. She suggested to Charles that they do something together. Hans invited his friends, Al Hofflander (UCLA professor of Economics) and his wife Betty, to join Claire and himself, with Charles as the architect, to create three custom townhouses on one lot.

It was a bold endeavor. Could Charles create three distinct, individual residences customized to three different clients (one being himself) and bring it together into a single, cohesive architectural statement? He could, and he did. He designed and built the three-townhouse cluster, in association with Richard Chylinski, reaching completion in December 1977. Now, more than 25 years later, the Selby Avenue Townhouses remain post-modern classics rarely equaled in Los Angeles.

The trio of dwellings nestles into a steeply sloping hillside, within walking distance of UCLA. It is an urban oasis, tucked into a row of plain vanilla boxes. If you didn't know where it was, you could drive right by and miss the surprise.

Each house was designed to fit the individual needs of its owners, while coming together to form what appears to be a single large residence. Charles solved the typical multi-family need for off-street parking with a large, semi-covered courtyard that the building bridges over. But the owners ultimately decided it was a perfect pedestrian piazza, and too charming to park in. It remains a shared entry courtyard with plants and vines framing the entry to each unit. The townhouses themselves are light-filled spatial puzzles that continue to surprise and delight their owners on a daily basis. All three units manage to have exposure on three sides with through-ventilation, private outdoor patios and a complex juxtaposition of spaces that defies description. The quality of light that enters through the three sides and the multi-faceted roof creates patterns that delight and inspire.

Beyond the context of the neighborhood, each design is imbued with Charles' dry wit and coy sense of humor. The curved pediment in his townhouse is an altar, an ecclesiastic reference to the Mormon Temple directly across the street. The fan-shaped fenestration, which he called Falling Windows, implies movement and was a casual reference to Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece."

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