Blades Residence

Blades Residence in Santa Barbara, California by Morphosis, 1997

In the 1980's, and a couple years in the following decade, Thom Mayne and Michael Rotondi created a consistent, influential body of work under the name Morphosis. Parting ways in 1991 Rotondi created the firm ROTO that explores architecture through tectonics and an alternative design process related to construction. Carrying on under the name Morphosis Thom Mayne continues to explore design on the fringe, maintaining contact with clients that enable him this freedom. The Blades Residence in Santa Barbara, California is one such design.

Similar to the Crawford Residence, done when Rotondi was still with Morphosis, the Blades Residence uses a curved wall to set up the design. While the former used a circular arc to orient views toward the ocean and cradle the house the latter uses an elliptical arc that violates any distinction between house and boundary, inside and outside. Here the curved wall doesn't act as a separator or datum; the wall becomes part of the house's composition, another element for the architect to manipulate.

This house illustrates the differences between Michael Rotondi and Thom Mayne. Rotondi's open-ended buildings celebrate the collaborative process with architect, client and contractor, the final product an expression of this process. Mayne's approach is more like the auteur, the controlling director with an artistic vision who does all he can to express himself. No right or wrong exists in these methods. Rather it is important to recognize how each process leads to a unique outcome.

In the Blades Residence the dialectic of inside and outside is blurred as surfaces penetrate other surfaces creating a flow of space over the usual series of rooms common in residential design. Both the spatial complexity and mix of smooth and rough surfaces make for dramatic spaces, definitely a statement an auteur like Thom Mayne would be proud of.