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Pitching a Tent on a Pasadena Home
House of the Issue> The Frank and Kim Residence by B+U Architects
The new entrance canopy of the Frank and Kim Residence is made of steel pipes and a silicon-dipped fiberglass material.
Joshua White

Downtown LA firm B+U specializes in fabric structures that transform everything from tiny residences to entire cities. Their latest, an addition to the Frank and Kim Residence in Pasadena, adds intricacy and complexity to what was a fairly ordinary midcentury home. It’s one of the most exciting residential projects in a usually much more historic-minded city. 

The project, set at the end of a long driveway in the woods of Pasadena, was originally intended as just a bathroom renovation. Things changed when the owners got excited about the possibilities offered by this innovative firm—a dream scenario for most architects. Now the project includes new master and pool bathrooms, a new kitchen, new solar paneling, a dynamic new concrete and fabric garage, and the highlight: an amazing steel and fabric canopy structure that defines the home’s entry, becoming both social and event space while providing rain and sun protection.

LEDs embedded in the canopy allow it to glow at night and change colors.

The canopy’s angular, branching geometries, which resemble nearby trees and echo the angles of the house, are made from pre-cut steel pipes welded together on site. Attached to this system is a white fabric material made from silicon-dipped fiberglass. At night, carefully arranged LED lights make the structure glow from within and bounce the light around the project.

The canopy is set over a new pathway of landscaping, also overseen by the firm, that snakes under and around the canopy. Just next to the canopy, the new garage with a green roof is made of an angular concrete skeleton with sliding gates also made of fabric, giving a sense of sculptural lightness and allowing it to glow at night.

The new kitchen is intentionally simple, with glass sliders, stone surfaces, and wood floors—a modest contrast with the dramatic canopy.

The steel installer, Thomas Osinski, also worked on the Disney Hall, while the firm’s partners, Herwig Baumgartner and Scott Uriu, met while working at Gehry Partners. They do not shy away from the experimental lessons they learned there. Other firm projects utilize wave patterns, vector diagrams, bending steel and wood, and bright colors.

The interior renovation of the project is minimal, using elegant stone and wood surfaces and opening up the space with large new windows and sliders. But it’s the new entryway that will really put this firm on the map, and make this house the talk of a town not usually known for contemporary architecture.

Sam Lubell