In the world of architecture, like with writers and artists, there’s a proverbial baton that’s passed from one generation of virtuosos to the next. Examples abound: Toni Morrison and Ta-Nehisi Coates, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Zaha Hadid and Ma Yansong. Indeed, it’s with Yansong’s latest project—the verdant Gardenhouse, a residential design in the heart of Los Angeles—that the young Chinese architect has secured his status of progressing the practice of architecture from one era into the next.
Ma Yansong, 45 and founder of MAD architects, has become China’s most exciting young architect. For years he’s been compared to his mentor, the late Zaha Hadid. And for good reason. His bold, free-formed, futuristic designs stand out—as if a spaceship parked in a suburban neighborhood. In many ways Yansong, like Hadid before him, is showing us the future of design. “My goal with Gardenhouse is to introduce a new and different model of urban living that places residents within the spiritual landscape of nature,” says Ma Yansong. To be sure, creating a green living space in a densely populated city such as Los Angeles is no easy task. Located along the historic Wilshire Boulevard, Gardenhouse comprises a series of contemporary residences and gardens. Each unit is built with imperfect ceilings and windows that come together as if naturally organized.
Within the cluster of residential homes, the space opens to a verdant community garden for the residents to enjoy. “The residences are organized around the courtyard, all facing towards this inner green space, so that regardless of which one you are in, you feel as though you are immersed in nature, which is incredibly rare in a city like Los Angeles,” explains Yansong. Inside of each single-family unit, the lines between what’s indoor and what’s outdoor is almost erased by the architect’s hand. The communal space of each home (kitchen, living area) opens to a balcony, and further out, the green community expanse within the cluster of condominiums.
MAD Architects, which is in the process of designing the highly anticipated Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts in Los Angeles, embraces the notion that architecture can create a harmonious connection between humans and nature. This means the creation of a green, living wall that doesn’t divide the units from the street, but rather blends the units with the natural world. “We designed an artificial hill and have wrapped it in a living wall that connects it with its natural surroundings, with the residences placed on top,” says Yansong of the exterior of his project. “What I want is for Gardenhouse to be a tribute to the elegance of Beverly Hills, reflecting its essence in a modern, contemporary form.”
But we’d be mistaken if we just thought the living wall was simply for aesthetics. Designed by the renowned landscape architect, Scott Hutcheon, the vertical living wall wraps around the premise. The greenery is comprised of drought-tolerant succulents and vines that are native to L.A. What’s more, recycled water will be used to keep the living wall lush, while also acting as a natural cooling system for the residential units as well.
Ultimately, while the living wall provides the public with a beautiful backscape to enjoy along Wilshire Boulevard, Gardenhouse was built for the enjoyment of its inhabitants. “We will be successful with this design if we’re able to give each resident the feeling they are living within some sort of hillside village,” says Yansong, “rather than in a crowded metropolitan city.”
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest