Norton House is known for its eccentric form and eclectic materiality, much like Frank Gehry’s house in Santa Monica. It is a sculptural assemblage of everyday materials and low costs.

Artist Lynn Norton and her husband, writer William Norton, hired Frank Gehry to design their house on a narrow, ocean-facing plot of land on Venice Boardwalk. Merging the owners’ desires with the property’s beachfront, Gehry created another collage of contrasting volumes, shapes, colors and heights that somehow work together to produce a coherent whole. It used a wide range of materials, from concrete blocks and stucco to glazed kitchen tiles and timber logs, in shades of sky blue, green, light yellow, orange and red. The volume itself is wrapped in bright blue tiles.

Photography of Samuel Ludwig

Photography of Samuel Ludwig

According to Gehry, “Their varied texture and colors reflect the visual chaos of the building’s complex urban context.Walls rendered with stucco are painted in different colors to accentuate geometric shapes, whereas other sections are faced with contrasting tiling. A tall, red chimney, visible through the glazing, rises through the house to pierce a glass canopy at roof level. A simple structure composed of wooden logs suggests an informal entrance“.

Photography of Samuel Ludwig

Photography of Samuel Ludwig

The building is a group of offset boxes connected by interior and exterior staircases, each with a deck area above. On the ground floor are two bedrooms, a studio and a garage, is subtly set back from the street wall. The second floor contains the main living spaces together with a kitchen and living space, setting farther back in an effort to maintain privacy. This space opens onto a terrace overlooking the ocean. The third floor houses another bedroom and an external staircase to the roof terrace, has its own deck as well. There is the studio which is the most notable form of the building. It is a purple box hanged on a pillar towards the front of the main terrace and is accessible only by the exterior stairway. The studio faces the ocean and has a large panoramic window at its front. The wooden shutters and timber pieces make make the likeness of a lifeguard station, a reference applicable to both the location, as it is on a beach where lifeguard perches are placed, and the client, as William Norton was a lifeguard in his youth.

Courtesy of LA Times

Courtesy of LA Times

Gehry added, “it as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the house’s beachfront setting and to William Norton’s past work as a lifeguard“.

Project Information :
Architect : Frank Gehry
Location : Venice, CA 90291
Project Year : 1984
Total Area : 2500.0 square ft
Client : William Norton and Lynn Norton

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