In the Krmpotich and Davis residences, the designs so completely develop ideas posited over a decade of practice that they leave almost no more room for further development: They have reached aesthetic saturation. To find room for further innovation and investigation, the architects reversed the process of addition that had led their designs to a cumulative richness. In the next two projects, they initiated a process of selective subtraction, and the roofs that had given their most recent projects great lyricism disappeared. The architects purposely challenged themselves by removing one of their most successful innovations. They restricted their new research and invention to the bodies of buildings with flat roofs.
In the Kelly residence, completed in 2006, the designs are more cubic, with blocks one and two stories high, some angled, and all carved with slots. Gaps separate the volumes, affording opportunities for fenestration. The architects questioned the purity of the volumes, detaching planes off of them in an ambiguous relationship, so that the planes are neither dependent nor independent of the parent volume. The architects introduced pipe columns to support the planes, which add a linear element to the planar and volumetric elements. The compositions, which Abramson says carry references to Le Corbusier, are complex less romantic and more cerebral than earlier designs. The house rests on a thin, horizontal datum of stone set in the grass, and so is dissociated from nature by the man-made substratum.
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A second residence for the Bennetts, completed in 2007, is somewhat transitional, with the vestiges of a gable roof, resting on cubic walls that are similarly notched. The materials palette, however, is warmer than in the Kelly house, with woods applied to fascias and used as mullions and door and window frames. A poolside pavilion, with an angular roof canopy and chevronshaped wall, is a striking piece of sculptural abstraction that implies what the decorating of the house would be without the burden of enclosure.
Having subverted the traditionalism of the roof shapes, the architects also subverted the traditional use of stone and wood by using it in a modern way: The stone does not touch the ground, removing the notion that it is load-bearing. They applied stone and wood to different planes and volumes so that the materials reinforce the spatial separation and differentiation of the parts.
In the memorable phrase of Mies van der Rohe, decorating cannot be reinvented every Monday. Abramson and Teiger have long memories and attention spans, and while they practice in the same modernist tradition as Mies, it is a different branch altogether they practice a modernism that is additive rather than reductive, within an open rather than closed system that allows them to cultivate density rather than spareness. The innovations are cumulative they compound their inventions and insights, remembering strategies from previous projects as they move forward to new ones. Over the course of their careers, they have mixed geometries and materials into rich spatial collages, composed of articulate planes and volumes. Interiors are as rich as exteriors; the architects achieve a design continuum from outside to inside, in sustained textures that give their designs depth. They do not practice as fagadists; rather, their practice is spatial.
Always they take cues from the context suburban, rural, or urban demonstrating the versatility of their open architectural language to a range of circumstances, whether the vast expanses of the West or neighboring houses eight feet away in Newport Beach. What remains consistent are the design strategies: Layering the basic architectural elements of plane, volume, and line led them to the layering of space, and then to the layering of light in space. In the West, the orchestrations of light endow the