Highland Park neighborhood Los Angeles, CA Sculpture using antique glass 2013
We were commissioned by David Judson to create a steel and glass sculpture for the front entrance to Judson Studios - a 5th generation family-owned architectural stained glass company. Judson came across a stash of antique Atelier Loire colored glass and wanted to display it in an exciting way. With a short deadline and modest budget we settled on a simple form and an efficient fabrication strategy that allowed us to focus on exploiting the qualities of the light passing through the colored glass. The glass itself is rare and irreplaceable so we chose not to alter it in any way. Custom fittings catch each piece and float them off a welded rebar armature.
Santa Barbara, CA Reconstruction of lost Solstice Window 2012
The Franciscan Friar Fermín de Lasuén established the Santa Barbara Mission in 1786 when southern California was still under Spanish colonial control. Today, more than two hundred years later, a community of Franciscan friars continues to live at the Mission. In 2012 a project to restore parts of the building was set in motion with the reconstruction of the rose window on the front facade of the building.
The builders of the Mission oriented the building so that on the solstice sunlight would stream through the rose window and fall on the alter. The original window was lost in one of the many earthquakes that severely damaged the mission. We were commissioned by local stained glass experts Judson Studios to design and build the replacement window. Using a photograph taken of the mission in 1876 by American photographer Carlton Watkins, we reconstructed the window out of solid walnut. Judson Studios glazed and installed the completed window, and the project was managed by the historic preservation firm Chattel, Inc.
The Santa Barbara Mission is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP #66000237).
Koreatown neighborhood Los Angeles, CA Designed and Built 2010
Our first project as UEA. A new friend hired us to build a 600-sqft garden structure for his climbing plants in Koreatown. The project was a joint venture with the owner who continues to manage and train the plants that create the walls and roof. All of the materials are reclaimed. Junk sailboat masts and scrap metal are connected by a series of custom fittings we developed to create a structurally sound system. The water feature - also made from scrap materials - produces pleasing gurgles in the background. Temporary bamboo provides shade until the bougainvillea and climbing roses grow to cover the structure.
Maloof Compound Accessibility
Rancho Cucamonga, CA Accessibility Plan, Fabrication and Installation of ramps, sloped walks, and handrails. 2012-2015
Built by the renowned woodworker Sam Maloof (1916-2009), the Maloof Compound is one of only two National Register Historic Artists' Homes and Studios in California (NRHP #03000471). The 5-Acre property contains a woodshop - still producing furniture under the Maloof name - as well as Maloof's former home, now a museum open to the public.
Working with Chattel Inc., we developed an architectural proposal with the aim of bringing the museum into compliance with American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines. We designed a series of ramps, sloped walks, landings and handrails to negotiate obstacles to accessibility throughout the property. Because of the compound’s status as an historic structure, any improvements to the site must comply with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. This means further review by City Planning to insure that any proposed construction respects the historic building fabric, is complementary to the existing architecture while appearing distinct, and that all new components are removable so that any impact to the site can be reversed in the future.
Following city approval of our accessibility plan and construction proposal, we fabricated and installed all components of our design. KAR Construction of Ontario, CA did a beautiful job with the excavation and concrete pouring. The Maloof Compound can now welcome visitors with disabilities on tours and meets all federal and state accessibility guidelines.
This was a particularly challenging project. The client wanted to bring light and excitement to the interior of her dark 1970s condo. It became an opportunity for us to experiment with exotic materials and a playful use of the space. We used special flexible concrete to create the tile floor. Locally made resin panels (Panelite) pierce the wall to allow daylight into the interior while preserving privacy in the bedroom beyond. Touching a book on the shelf reveals a secret passage into the bathroom.
Los Angeles, CA 2013
As part of our ongoing exploration of glass, we developed an experimental lamp that magnifies and projects the patters and distortions that occur when light passes through fractures and the broken edges of glass samples. The craftsmen at Judson Studios generously give us their time, advice and the materials we used to make this prototype. We photographed the lamp in action under the 134 freeway in the Arroyo Seco near Pasadena.
Lighting has always been a critical element of our designs. We create custom fixtures and lighting effects to give our clients’ spaces the character and mood they seek. Manipulating light quality is a technical problem and provides us with the opportunity to experiment with electronics, mechanical systems, and craft in ways that excite us.
Lummis House Rehabilitation
Highland Park neighborhood Los Angeles, CA Historic preservation, documentation and rehabilitation 2010 - present
Built by Charles Lummis over a 30-year period starting in the 1890s, the Lummis House is a Southern California landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP #71000148). The home was built entirely by hand and was intended by Lummis to last 1000 years. The Lummis House offers us insights into the effects of time on architecture as well as the complex nature of maintaining historic structures in the 21st Century. Five years of restoration work on carpentry and masonry elements has given us an intimate understanding of the house and its quirks. Our experience has allowed us to help the stewards of the property plan future preservation efforts. Research into Lummis' materials and methods has helped us to reconstruct his building techniques, allowing us to integrate new restoration work using original construction methods. Our work at the Lummis House gives us the opportunity to learn the intricacies of historic preservation through direct practice.
Mobile Small-scale non-ferrous foundry 2013 - present
We are refining a foundry process that allows us to do in-house metal casting. Our interest in metal casting is an outgrowth our ongoing exploration of the Los Angeles scrap metal industry. Consumption and reuse is a central feature of the economy, and metal production and manufacturing is a great example of that cycle in action. The ability to cast and machine metal is fundamental to the production of most things including architecture. The technical nature of melting metal and the craft involved in making something with it has provided us with plenty to learn about.
In December 2013, we hosted BLAST FURNACE, a show at our studio in Koreatown. For a crowd, we operated our fully functioning aluminum foundry featuring our homemade charcoal-fired furnace.
Many small projects requiring refined craft come our way. Frequently this work calls for tight, solid construction with exacting specifications and less emphasis on extravagant design statements. These projects offer us the opportunity to work with other artists and designers as well as try new materials and investigate technologies and methods that interest us. Above all, these projects allow us to test and improve our craft. Below are a number of commissioned small projects that illustrate our approach.
Benches for Rincon Gallery
Four solid-ash benches with hickory, oak, and walnut parquetry inlay on the seats. Designed in collaboration with John Fleeman of Fleeman Art Services.
Pine-tarred Triptych Frames
Three frames for an untitled piece by David Weldzius, as part of his News From Nowhere solo exhibition at Steven Cohen Gallery. Weldzius photographed a window at the historic Lummis House in Highland Park, Los Angeles, and wanted the frames to echo the carpentry depicted in his images. We milled the frames from vertical-grain douglas fir, and treated it with a traditional pine-tar finish. Weldzius wanted the distinctive smell of the tar to permeate the gallery space as part of the work. Gallery photographs: Jeff Mclane.
Solid stained and waxed hard-maple frame to conceal a standard LCD screen displaying a video work by Michaël Borremans, included in the Word Bites Picture exhibition at Design Matters Gallery. Designed and built to the artist's specifications. Gallery photographs: Carla Choy.
Actuated Bath Cabinet
An unusual cabinet for the corner of a bathroom. Pressing down on the solid dove-tailed poplar top allows a re-purposed car-trunk dampener to raise the cabinet, providing access to a shelf. Video: Jeff Mclane.
The Nesty Packer
Product concept for modular, low-cost furniture and storage. Each set of eight Packers nests within itself for easy transportation and storage. The dimensions of the boxes are coordinated to allow numerous stacking combinations. Each box is strong enough to serve as a stool. Fabricated from oiled and painted Baltic birch ply.
A large part of our work is preparing architectural documents for our clients. All phases of design and construction are expressed and recorded in the form of drawings. We provide clients with all the tools they need to successfully realize their project.
- Surveys to record the existing condition of a building.
- Renderings and models to develop and visualize a design.
- Drawing sets to communicate ideas to designers, local building authorities and contractors.
- Budgets and scheduling.
- Legal documents to record agreements and protect clients from fraud and incompetent workmanship.
Los Angeles 2009
We (Tada Ryvola and Michael Sandstrom) met while attending the Masters of Architecture (M.Arch) program at the Southern California Institute of Architecture in 2009. Along with two of our classmates, we entered and won a competition to design and build a stage and podium for Sci-Arc’s lecture hall.
Construction of the project enabled us to move outside of the classroom and teach ourselves many of the skills we felt were essential to our education as architects. We had the opportunity to experiment with design/build skills such as welding, mechanical engineering, carpentry and the ability to test and actively learn with a collection of unique materials. Furthermore, the project sparked a self-determination and creative drive that allowed us the freedom to solve design problems in an applied and immediate manner.
Throughout the evolution of this project our values regarding design, education for architects, and our goals for the built environment became clear. We know good architecture is learned the same way it’s built – hands on. This motivated us to launch our design/build firm United Environment Architecture. Happily, we can say it has rewarded us with five years of good practice.