Gardenhouse is a significant project in Ma Yansong led MAD Architects’ diverse portfolio. It will be remembered as the firm’s first commission to be completed in the United States and boasts of one of the most extensive living green walls in the country. Located on the Wilshire Boulevard in California’s Beverly Hills, the mixed-use development draws inspiration from the iconic hillside of Los Angeles, with residential units “growing” from the building’s living green wall.
Consisting of 18 residential units on top of a ground floor commercial space, this “hillside village” is a cluster of white facade, irregular-shaped windows, and gabled-roof structures creating a playful geometry. Created as a modern-day village, the defining feature of the building is the living wall covered in lush plantings of native, drought-tolerant succulents and vines, whose familiarity with the local climate negates the need for extra irrigation and maintenance. This leads to improving the overall microclimate of the neighbourhood and adding a unique texture to the streetscape. The living green wall and aluminium composite cladding forms the building façade and reduces the building’s energy consumption.
With this project, MAD Architects has experimented with the “Shanshui City” design philosophy in a residential project in North America.
Ma Yansong describes this philosophy as, “This approach is derived from the East Asian perception of a world that is imbued with a particular affinity for Nature.”
Yansong continues, “Los Angeles and Beverly Hills are highly modernised and developed. Their residences on the hills seemingly coexist with the urban environment. However, they also see enclosed movement at their core.”
The Gardenhouse is a mix of different housing typologies, two studios, eight condominiums, three townhouses and five villas. This is done to create a high sense of community. The apartments on the second floor encircle a central, open-air atrium where a “secret garden” forms the gathering space for this community. This diversity is not visible in its formal exterior expression where the forms look opaque but facing the inner courtyard; they are transparent. The spaces are organised in such a way that all the community areas– the living room, the dining room, the office area, the kitchen– face this inner green space. Also, every unit consists of a pitched roof, which creates drama in the interior spaces.
The architects also paid particular attention to the distance, orientation and arrangement of balconies overlooking the courtyard, to respect everyone’s privacy and space. Gardenhouse seeks to offer a rebuttal to the stereotypical cubic box living environments of high-density cities, worldwide, by providing individuality and exclusiveness to each unit with its independent entry/exit circulation route.
"The commune connection between the urban environment and Nature is isolated. What new perspectives and new value can we bring to Los Angeles? Perhaps, we can create a hill in the urban context, so people can live on it and make it a village," muses Ma Yansong, founder of MAD Architects.“This place will be half urban, half Nature. This can offer an interesting response to Beverly Hills: a neighbourhood which is often carefully organised and maintained, now with a witty, playful new resident.”
Founded by Ma in 2004, MAD Architects is based in Beijing, China and has offices in Los Angeles, New York City and Rome. MAD Architects is a global architecture firm committed to developing futuristic, organic, technologically advanced designs that embody a contemporary interpretation of the Eastern affinity for nature. With a vision for the city of the future based on the spiritual and emotional needs of residents – MAD endeavours to create a balance between humanity, the city, and the environment.