A couple in Los Angeles has turned a veil of corrugated aluminum panels on their house into a Hebrew letters spelling “ahava,” or “love.”
When people ask Bob Hale about the house that he and his wife, Maxine Morris, built two years ago for their family in Los Angeles, he has a standard response.
“I like to say I have a house wrapped in love,” Hale says.
It’s a statement both metaphorical and, from a design standpoint, literal. Even the home’s name, Beit Ha-Ahava (Hebrew for “House of Love”), telegraphs the message.
Hale, a partner in the architecture firm Rios Clementi Hale Studios, and Morris, a finance director for the RAND Corp., met in 2008. At the time, Hale, who is now 59, was a widower still living in the Spanish Colonial house where he and his first wife had raised their two children.
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He and Morris, now 52, lived in the same neighborhood. But as their relationship progressed, they wanted to create a home together, and they thought that neither of their places was right. And as an architect, Hale had long wanted to design his own house.
The couple found a site for $920,000 halfway between their respective homes, with a 1940s house in poor condition on it. They had the house taken apart piece by piece, donating the materials to a green-building charity, and were left with a sloping lot with a large setback from the street.
They both liked modern architecture and discussed an open-plan house with as few walls as possible, clean lines and rooms that would be comfortable but not overly large. They wanted a place that would be energy efficient and easily maintained.
Hale also wanted to carve out a ground-level suite where his grown children from his first marriage could stay when they visit. All of which describes the three-story, 5,000-square-foot, loftlike home that he and Morris built for $400 a square foot.
A skylight in the center opens, creating a slight vacuum that allows hot air to escape in summer and causes a circulating effect. The front and back walls are glass and open up completely, so the couple and their guests can move in and out and take advantage of the mild California climate.
“Some of my architect friends say my house is the house of an optimist — we’re open to the community,” Hale says.
But what lends the house its name is the veil of corrugated aluminum panels that wrap around the second level: Hebrew letters spelling “ahava,” or “love,” were cut by water jet into it in a repeating pattern.
It was an idea that resulted from collaboration and compromise: Hale had experience working with perforated aluminum from his years in Frank Gehry’s office, while Morris had once seen a porch light in the shape of the Hebrew letter L. Instead of having cutouts that were just “boring holes,” as she puts it, she suggested using Hebrew letters.
It’s obvious to passers-by that the design has meaning, though not everyone comprehends what it is.
“For people who don’t know Hebrew lettering, it will just look like a pattern,” Morris says.
She adds: “The really cool thing is that throughout the day it creates shadowing inside the house. The moonlight comes through the bedroom onto our ceiling, and it’s so cool when you wake up and see it.”
Happy as he is living with Morris in their new home, Hale says he didn’t intend the veil as an advertisement to the world.
“I wasn’t necessarily hoping everybody would go, ‘Oh, love,’ ” he says. “It goes back to some original things I learned from Gehry’s office, but with new technology. For me, it was more about creating a pattern.”