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Megamansions 21 MIN, 43 SEC

Scott Gillen takes pride in his New Castle in Malibu. Photo by Frances Anderton.

In the very time that residential space in L.A. is being designed smaller, down to the scale of micro units, it's also gotten bigger.

In this most recent building boom house sizes have been growing and growing to around a 100,000 square feet.

The gigantic have been nicknamed gigamansions; the very big, say 10 -- 20,000 square feet, have earned the moniker mega-mansions. As for McMansions, those are so yesterday.

So who's building these megamansions? Who is buying them and living in them?

And do anti-mansionization ordinances mean that we're going to be seeing less of them?

On the 12th episode of “This is Home in LA,” DnA explores luxury houses, with designer/builder/developer Scott Gillen in Malibu, and architect Ignacio Rodriguez.

The 120 feet long, 6000 square feet great room in Scott Gillen’s New Castle in Malibu has spectacular views, lots of teak and handsanded wood beams. Photo credit: UNVARNISHED.

On a tour of Gillen’s 16,000 square feet New Castle in Malibu, on sale now for $85 million, he explains the qualities that make a vast house a liveable home: “accouterments, whether that be the media room or the game room or the gym or the spa,” also great views, high quality design which includes a soothing “19 shades of white.”

And who will buy this palace? Not a celebrity, he says, it will have to be a billionnaire.

He is confident it will sell; after all Malibu property has been experiencing its own micro-boom recently. Earlier this year Malibu home sales were reported to be up 36 percent over the same period in 2017.

View from end to end of the great room in Scott Gillen’s New Castle in Malibu. Photo credit: UNVARNISHED.

Real estate expert Stephen Shapiro however, believes it’s time for a “correction” in the luxury house market. This is due to impending tax changes that mean less of a property tax write-off, combined with a surge in anti-mansionization ordinances “from Malibu to Santa Monica to Beverly Hills to Los Angeles,” that are targeting speculative “white boxes” in the hills.

But those ordinances “don’t have a track record for implementation, so everybody is still trying to understand the codes' intents vs the actual written language,” says Ignacio Rodriguez. Rodriguez’s firm IR Architects specializes in 4 - 20,000 square feet homes in hilly sites in neighborhoods and cities including Beverly Hills, Brentwood and the Pacific Palisades.

Rodriguez explains why large Modern houses make sense on hillside sites: “the code kind of lends itself to it. If you follow the topography you get these these beautiful sight lines and get these homes to elongate and to really get the feeling of an estate.”

Rodriguez was born in Mexico, raised in Compton and studied architecture at Woodbury University. While there, he studied micro-housing in Hong Kong and decided he preferred to design large homes.

Since founding his firm in 2012 he has designed 121 homes and become seasoned in building in LA.

Ignacio Rodriguez specializes in contemporary, luxury houses between 4 and 20,000 square feet like this one on Pelham in West LA.

This experience has taught him why, in his view, construction costs are so high for homes in LA right now, at every scale: lack of skilled trades.

He says people skilled in “concrete, framing, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, low voltage, waterproofing” are highly sought after.

At the higher end of the market he says you also have “sub-sub-contractors” with a monopoly on “micro-trades” -- “people that specialize in lighting, people that specialize in speakers, people that specialize in the electric shades coming down, people that specialize in door automation.”

Ignacio Rodriguez, architect of luxury homes, visits KCRW. Photo by Frances Anderton.

Scott Gillen, Designer, developer, builder, The New Castle
Ignacio Rodriguez, Architect, principal, IR Architects (@ir_architects)
Stephen Shapiro, Chairman, Westside Estate Agency (@WEAHomes)

The War of the Los Angeles Megamansions
The New Castle reviewed in the Robb Report
Forbes profiles Scott Gillen’s New Castle
Ignacio Rodriguez profiled by his alma mater, Woodbury University
Luxury homes due for a correction, says Forbes

Tower of Voices 5 MIN, 43 SEC

A view of Tower of Voices, marking the entrance to the Flight 93 National Memorial national park. Image courtesy of NPS Photo.

Today marks seventeen years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

On that day, 40 passengers and crew members of United Flight 93 lost their lives. They fought against the hijackers who wanted to fly the plane into the US Capitol.

The National Park Service held an architectural competition in 2005 to create a national memorial in Pennsylvania where the plane crashed.

LA architect Paul Murdoch and his team were picked from more than a thousand competitors, and have since worked with the Park Service and the families of the bereaved to create a memorial and park over 2,200 acres of grounds that were previously mined for coal.

The final addition is Tower of Voices, a sonic gateway to the memorial complex. It is a 93-foot tall concrete tower set among a ring of trees, from which hang 40 large metal wind chimes.  

“The idea for the piece is that it's a living memorial in sound,” says Murdoch. “A lot of the last memories of people on the plane were through their voices on phone calls. So we wanted to have something and sound as part of the memorial.”

A dedication ceremony was held this Sunday for this new addition, which has proven a complex challenge in terms of the sound and physical design.

Murdoch worked with a sound artist who specialized in chimes and a musician and tuning theorist on simulating the haunting, melancholy music that would be created by the movement of wind through 40 aluminum tubes of differing lengths.

“When we talked I said, you know, this is not a composed piece. This is always going to be changing. And initially we talked about there being kind of a harmony of these 40 sounds but also some dissonance because of what happened that day.”

Eight of the chimes have been installed with another 32 still to be added.

Paul Murdoch, Founder and President, Paul Murdoch Architects

Time reports on the Tower of Voices
USA Today visits Tower of Voices

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