In the aftermath of the Old Topanga Fire, which broke out near Malibu, Calif. in the fall of 1993, more than 39,000 acres of land in Malibu neighboring Topanga burned, sending property values plummeting for several years.
At the time, young architect Joe Day, AIA, and his wife were able to afford an empty plot overlooking the Santa Monica Bay in Topanga.
14 years later, now a firm leader with Deegan-Day Design & Architecture in Los Angeles, Day’s team finally completed the 4/Way 2,250-square-foot retreat home in this once again desirable location.
With fire protection top of mind, Day chose metal for the exteriors. A RHEINZINK prePATINA architectural-grade zinc clads the walls and roof. In addition to resisting fire and corrosion, the long-lasting material is fully recyclable and its dynamic patina will evolve in color over time.
Enhancing the home’s fire protection, steel trusses lend a unique interior aesthetic over the living spaces and concrete was selected for the base of the structure.
“Fear of fire, flood, slides and erosion dictate stringent setback, cladding and planting guidelines enforced by the state-wide Coastal Commission and by a myriad county and city agencies,” explains Day.
In addition, the home sits downslope from its neighbors, essentially making it the first line of fire defense for the community.
“A lot of the rationale for the house has to do with the idea that now we’re the outpost. If you can defend our property, you are defending five houses up the street,” he says.
The property’s surrounding terraces offer a series of outdoor rooms and act as a fire buffer as well.
Like a good neighbor, the design sits low enough on the ridge to preserve views for the homes uphill while showcasing the natural, mountainous landscape through large glass windows.
“To take advantage of a distant, but commanding view of Santa Monica Bay, the house folds across the grain of a steeply sloping ridge, ducking upslope neighbors and cutting into the hillside to cool the lower floor,” notes Day.
The name 4/Way House was inspired by the home’s four rotations.
• The first is a planimetric rotation approximately 18 degrees off the cardinal north-southeast-west to the southeast, toward the Santa Monica Bay view.
• The second rotation comprises the truss configurations that give the house its angular envelope, opening the house toward the view while also providing a faceted fire blanket for the house.
• The third orientation is the garage, designed to municipal specifications to potentially aid firefighters. It tilts 90 degrees upward and doubles as a movie screen.
• The fourth rotation references an internal ruled-surface rotation that governs much of the cabinetry and the transition between floors.
Ultimately, the raw concrete, exposed metal, zinc panels and birch plywood combine to display a beautiful, durable and protective interior and exterior.