Crazy for Cantilevers

Crazy for Cantilevers

LeanArch not only designed but also built the Wild Oak House in Griffith Park.
Claudio Santini

While common in some places, it is rare for an LA firm to build its own projects. One of the great exceptions is the small downtown firm LeanArch, founded in 2000, which has its own general contracting license and loves to get involved with the construction side of things. Co-founder, James Meyer, lights up at words like site, location, construction, or boots. “It’s all about getting your hands dirty,” he said.

The house overlooks the hollywood hills, including the iconic sign. (CLICK TO ZOOM) ©Julius Shulman Juergen Nogai

LeanArch has built a number of LA houses in this manner, including three in the Hollywood Hills alone. Perhaps the most dramatic is the Wild Oak House, perched in a tranquil spot in Griffith Park, with views extending to the horizon, not to mention toward the Hollywood Sign. (They’ve also built houses nearby on Green Oak Drive and Park Oak Drive.)

The home was first made possible through an immense effort to level out a very steep hill and create a huge deck for the cantilevered pool and party area. The owner, music businessman Tony Yanow, throws legendary parties here. The firm went through five sets of permits stretching over six years to accomplish this and to build a 20-foot perimeter retaining wall that now disappears under this plinth, which includes not only the blue-tiled infinity pool but a small pool house as well.

The project itself is a fairly simple rectilinear design—somewhat reminiscent of a Case Study House with a contemporary twist—that juts over the hillside with multiple steel cantilevers and large glass walls, spreading itself over the scenery “like a bird,” as Meyer puts it. A darkly colored aluminum underbelly maximizes the steel frame structure’s floating aspect by allowing the white stucco walls to dominate above. These walls shade the house’s large windows beneath elements that fold out like modernist origami.

The house has an open layout with fluid definition between interior spaces. ©Claudio Santini, Julius Shulman Juergen Nogai

Inside, the open plan allows spaces to flow into each other, with attention focused on the marvelous views. The overall 3,200-square-foot size is relatively small, but effective in this setting. No space is wasted: A hallway in the center of the house doubles as the owner’s library.

Simple but low-key and elegant material choices include Montauk Black Slate, polished concrete floors, stainless steel guardrails, and white oak cabinetry. Strategic overhangs above the pool and on the sides of the house, as well as glass walls on the north and west elevations, allow one to move out to the exterior immediately. The roof is covered with solar thermal panels, which heat the pool.

The pool and adjacent "infinity" pool house were built on a platform that keeps the airy house aloft on its hillside perch. ©Julius Shulman Juergen Nogai

For Meyer, the greatest validation came when Julius Shulman came to photograph the project, spent the day, and gushed about how much he liked the house. “That afternoon was a life changer for me,” said Meyer.