Venice, California

Larry Scarpa grew up in Florida, where the heat and humidity kept him indoors. “In Southern California, however, living outside is easy to do,” says the architect, whose firm Brooks + Scarpa is based in Los Angeles. “Now I can’t get away from imposing my desire on others.” Recent beneficiaries of his imposition include a couple whose young children are friends with Scarpa’s son. The family was living on a cramped lot on one of the canals in nearby Venice, but they gave up this otherwise desirable waterfront location for a Scarpa-designed, net zero energy, 4,700-square-foot house and roomy backyard elsewhere in the seaside district.

Family spaces trump private ones in the steel, glass, and bamboo house, which is L-shaped in plan and organized around outdoor courtyards. (It’s technically a remodel, but Scarpa tore down most of the existing structure, keeping only the foundation, garage, and the perimeter wall on the east side.) While the house appears solid from the street, the front entry leads directly to one of these courtyards. From there, the entire backyard, all the way to the rear garden gate, can be seen through the glass-walled living/dining room, which flows from an open kitchen. On the second floor, four small bedrooms keep the emphasis on the spaces where the family can be together, even if they’re not engaged in the same activity.

The bedrooms exit onto a bamboo deck and bleacher stairs, allowing children to bypass the rest of the house on their way inside or out. “I know from having a young kid of my own that you’re always screaming, ‘Inside or outside!’” says Scarpa. To visually unify the house, the architect defined horizontal and vertical edges with a steel band that winds without interruption around the exterior. “It pulls all the pieces together, a continuous squiggle,” says Scarpa. 


Formal name of building: Yin-Yang House

Location: Venice, CA

Completion Date: 2011

Gross square footage: 4,700

Total construction cost: 1.7 million

Brooks + Scarpa
4611 W. Slauson Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90043
Tel. 310-828-0226
fax 310-453-9696

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA – Lead Designer

Ching Luk, Emily Hodgdon

Structural: Charles Tan

Solar System: M & M Solar

General contractor: Glenn Lyons Construction




Structural system
Type V wood frame over Type I reinforced concrete.

Exterior cladding
Masonry: Angeles Block Company

Metal Panels: Natural oxidized cold rolled recycled steel

Concrete panels: Recycled Portland Cement Exterior Cement Plaster with integral finish

Windows: Fleetwood, US Aluminum Corporation

Concrete: Type ll Portland Cement with 25% flyash, LM Scofield Lithochrome stain

Wood: Composite floor truss joists by Weyerhaeuser, Micro-lam and parallam composite beams by Truss Joist Corporation, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified bamboo flooring, cabinets, and structural wood.

Built-up roofing: 4-ply Modified bitumen membrane cool roof by CertainTeed Corporation

Flashing: Celotex, GAF corporation, Grefco, APOC

Glass: Solarban 80 by PPG

Skylights: Bristolite, Solatube International, Inc.

TM Cobb, Timely, Steelcraft Manufacturing Co., McKeon Door Company, Nationwide Industries, Anemostat Door Products, Total Door Systems. 

Schlage, Trimco, LCN, Ives, Rixon, Monarch, Pemko, Johnson, Elmes

Interior finishes
Paints and stains: Non-toxic zero VOC Paints by AFM Safecoat

Paneling: Recycled Formaldehyde free MDF, Recycled-Content Gypsum Board with 31% recycled content (26% post consumer waste), Dens-Glass Gold by Georgia-Pacific

Floor and wall tile: Ecotile by Walker Zanger

Resilient flooring: Ecotile by Walker Zanger, concrete and FSC certified bamboo

Interior ambient lighting: Shaper, Bega Prudential, Stonco, Belfer, Del Rey Lighting

Dimming System or other lighting controls: Lutron

Fixtures: American Standard, Kohler, Bobrick, Grohe, Chicago Faucets, Toto, Delta

Appliances: GE, ISE, Bosch, Fagor, Bertazzoni