In Los Angeles, a Midcentury Homage Is Capped With a “Floating Roof” - Dwell

Author / Creator

GLUCK+ builds on the language of iconic design with a family home in the Hollywood Hills.

Film director Will Gluck cites a few reasons why he loves his new home: A view spans from the San Fernando Valley to the San Gabriel Mountains, there’s a sense of quiet while still being close to the bustle of Downtown Los Angeles, and comfortable, open interiors make for quality family time. Most of all, however, he loves that he’s "living inside his father’s imagination."

Designed by his dad, Peter Gluck of architecture firm GLUCK+, Will’s family home is an updated take on the Case Study Houses, a series of home designs sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine and built predominantly in L.A. to accommodate the post-World War II housing boom. Those homes, designed by midcentury starchitects like Richard Neutra and Pierre Koenig and built of glass, wood, and steel, were strikingly modern for the times. But they were also built to accommodate a glut of homebuyers, which means they were compact and short on sustainable tenets.

Gluck’s design of his son’s home carries the same clean-boned, midcentury aesthetic, but is updated to be more sustainable and to enhance creature comforts. The lower level of the home is built into the hillside and is topped with soil nine inches deep to provide ample insulation to the interiors. Peter notes that the lower level also receives a substantial boost in natural heating and cooling from being "earth-sheltered" by the side of the mountain. Its foot-thick concrete wall also helps, eliminating air leakage and moderating interior temperature swings.

On the top level of the home, which sits atop the subterranean lower level, the rectangular roof appears to hover. Each glass facade rises to meet the roofline, but lowered cabinets and interior walls create the illusion of a floating roof. The roof is also slightly rotated, and titled up gently at the edges like an origami bird.

"This angular differentiation creates shaded areas at all times," says Peter, "and the chance to sit and participate in the environment in all its moods." The roof also hides a host of solar panels, which produce enough energy to power the entire house and keep three electric vehicles charged.

The two levels—the lower one, heavy and carved into the mountain, and the upper, all glass and light-filled with a roof that seems poised for flight—perfectly reflect Peter’s approach to design. Rather than cleaving to an identifiable style, he and GLUCK+ have a "series of guiding principles" that include adapting to the environment and delineating between public and private spaces.

The lower level of the home contains the more private areas—bedrooms and bathrooms, a family reading area, and an enclosed home theater. Still, floor-to-ceiling glass facing the valley allows for uninterrupted views and plenty of California sunshine. The upper level, an open public space that includes a kitchen, dining, and living areas, features even more sweeping views.

"We congregate in the kitchen," says Will of his wife, Trista, and their two teenage daughters. "But we also love to sit outside, or in the living room." A favorite item in the house? "The rug hanging in the hall downstairs," says Will, which was meant for the floor, but has instead become a striking piece of art, its thick shag signed and "drawn on" by guests and then erased with the casual sweep of a hand.

For Will and his family, the finished home—with its peaceful cactus garden and angular profile—is a triumphant homage to the midcentury Case Study Houses and an ingenious showcase of modern sustainable building. Will says they all loved the experience of building the home with GLUCK+. "It was a great emotional journey having my dad here, seeing him with the kids, and so fun to watch him work," says Will. "No one wanted it to be over."

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: GLUCK+ / @gluck_plus

General Contractor: GLUCK+

Structural and Civil Engineer: PECK / @peck_architectural_struct_civil

Interior Design: Insight Environmental Design / Anne Kaplan

Cabinetry Design: GLUCK+

Mechanical Engineer: IBC Engineering Services, Inc.

Mechanical Engineer: CES Engineering