THE WALL HOUSE

Com­bin­ing the de­sign sen­si­bil­i­ties of two renowned builders, this prop­erty has ar­chi­tec­ture buffs in a tizzy

The National - News - Luxury - - FRONT PAGE - By Panna Mun­yal

The Wall House tells the story of two ar­chi­tects: Amer­i­can mod­ernist Philip John­son, one of the famed Har­vard Five, and Post­mod­ernist de­signer Reja Bakh, who is known for cre­at­ing spa­ces that blend the bound­aries be­tween in­doors and out.

The Har­vard Five, which also in­cluded John Jo­hansen, Mar­cel Breuer, Landis Gores and Eliot Noyes, were known for spear­head­ing a move away from the overde­signed Vic­to­rian-in­spired style of the time to­wards a more min­i­mal­ist aes­thetic, with sharp edges, clean lines and, in John­son’s case, plenty of glass. His phi­los­o­phy was that great ar­chi­tec­ture is “the de­sign of space that con­tains, cud­dles, ex­alts or stim­u­lates the per­sons in that space”. And in­stead of homes that em­pha­sised pri­vacy, the builder pri­ori­tised the out­doors, with in­spir­ing views, so­cia­ble pa­tios and vis­ually van­ish­ing thresh­olds.

John­son, who died in 2005, built his famed Glass House in the 1940s with the in­ten­tion of us­ing it as his per­sonal res­i­dence. The award-win­ning ar­chi­tect later de­cided to build the Alice Ball House nearby to live in, and used the Glass House for the lav­ish par­ties he was famed for throw­ing. Cur­rently, the Glass House is a mu­seum listed in the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places, but its more live­able ver­sion is on the mar­ket.

When Bakh bought Alice Ball in 2015, al­legedly to save it from be­ing de­mol­ished, he went on to de­sign a new 1,000-square-foot res­i­dence, Wall House, in­flu­enced by Ger­man-Amer­i­can ar­chi­tect Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavil­ion. This new, as yet un­built struc­ture will sit on a 2.2-acre com­pound that will in­cor­po­rate both homes, link­ing them through a series of long vis­tas and walls – with some con­nected and oth­ers ap­pear­ing to be free-float­ing. Bakh has said he wants the fu­ture owner of Wall House to dis­play “a sim­i­lar ap­pre­ci­a­tion of modern ar­chi­tec­tural his­tory in col­lect­ing a piece of work by a master”.

As shown through ren­der­ings, the uni­fi­ca­tion of Alice Ball and Wall House will pro­vide a large liv­ing room, three bed­rooms, an in­door pool and spa, a 14-car un­der­ground garage with sky­lights and a cel­lar, plus a John­son-de­sign sculp­ture gar­den. Bakh en­vi­sions the 1,500-square-foot Alice Ball space as be­ing re­pur­posed as a col­lec­tor’s gallery. The liv­ing and din­ing ar­eas of the new all-white res­i­dence will be sur­rounded by glass walls, which will look di­rectly out on to Alice Ball House, while the bed­rooms, bath­rooms and kitchen will of­fer more pri­vacy.

While the plans and ba­sic ma­sonry are in place, the new house has not been erected, which gives po­ten­tial buy­ers the chance to tweak and fur­nish the lay­out to suit their pref­er­ences. Once it sells, Bakh has a team ready to over­see the build­ing of Wall House and make mi­nor up­dates to Alice Ball House. Ac­cord­ing to the ar­chi­tect, the project has the full sup­port of the Glass House foun­da­tion, with the mu­seum it­self lo­cated a five-minute drive away.

The Wall House plot is listed with Sotheby’s In­ter­na­tional Realty for US$7.7 mil­lion.

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