Los Angeles: Norton House (USA)

Norton House

2509 Ocean Front Walk Los Angeles, CA 90291 USA (between 25th + 26th Ave)

Frank Gehry (1983-84)

Norton House by Frank Gehry 05_Stephen Varady Photo ©

Many things can catch the attention on a walk along Ocean Front Walk at Venice Beach, Santa Monica – cafes and shops, so many different types of people, and all manner of houses. A very special one is the Norton House by Frank Gehry, a conceptually magnificent interpretation and resolution of the clients’ requirements on an extremely tight budget using the most basic of materials. Gehry’s design also includes a series of roof terraces giving the owners a great deal of outdoor space on a very confined site.

In the 1986 publication from Rizzoli and the Walker Art Centre, ‘The Architecture of Frank Gehry’, the architect explains:

‘My pride and joy… The budget was very, very tight… In this project I was dealing with the complex context of Venice. Anything you put in Venice is absorbed in about 30 seconds – nothing separates itself from that context. There’s so much going on – so much chaos. In the Norton House we were trying to get into that, trying to figure out how to co-opt it, how to make a piece that would be seen, have its own integrity sculpturally, and yet become part of that cacophony.

The husband is a screenwriter, the wife is an artist. I dealt with their needs and the husband’s yearnings for a private perch in which to write. He happened to mention his early days as a lifeguard and how he liked sitting in the lifeguard tower. So I picked up on that. I’m sure he never expected what he got, but I think it plays with his fantasies – that’s something I like to do. 

Spatially I organised the interiors in relation to the ocean to give privacy, but also to provide a lot of terraces fronting the ocean view. This particular beach gets a lot of pedestrian traffic so the main living room is set above the beach in such a way that passersby can’t see onto the terrace. There’s a decent level of privacy in this building.’


Further Information:

Place: Norton House

Architect: Frank Gehry

Photographer: Stephen Varady (scans from slides)

Review: LA Conservancy, Arch Daily

Map: Norton House Map










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