Sycamore House

Submitted by Michael Kovac

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Client: Michael Kovac

Location: Los Angeles, CA, United States

Completion date: 2010

Artwork budget: $30,000

Project Team

Architect

Michael Kovac

Kovac Architects

Artist

Jill Sykes

Overview

Designed by principal Michael Kovac, Sycamore House is a modern, ridge-top residence in Pacific Palisades, with a hand-hewn exterior. With an emphasis on sustainable systems and green materials, Sycamore House is an impressive marriage of art and environmentally conscious architecture. Serving as a laboratory for his ongoing research on sustainable design, Sycamore House was among the first homes in California to garner a LEED Platinum rating.
In an effort to further wed home to site, Kovac commissioned Los Angeles-based artist Jill Sykes to create a design based on the shadows cast by the site's native Sycamores.

Goals

When Kovac presented artist Jill Sykes with the fibre-cement rain screen panels of his home to use as her canvas, it was his intention to use the site's native flora to indelibly mark his house, in the same way that the house indelibly marks its site.

Sycamore House does not wear its green credentials on its sleeve, so the subtle, organic tattoo of Syke’s signature, botanically influenced work serves as a quiet reminder of the environmentally-driven ethos at work within. The debossed panels also add texture and help soften the crisp, modernist lines of home.

Process

Sycamore House wears a skin of shadows, seemingly embedded in stone. Uniting Jill Sykes’ paintings to architecture, Kovac Architects presents a subtle façade of beautiful texture that provides a perfect visual integration of home and nature, creating a soft, light-catching surface of constantly moving shadow that echoes the texture, movement and shade of surrounding trees.

Working closely with Kovac’s team, Sykes drew dozens of sketches before arriving at the final four elevation drawings. Once inked in, the drawings were scanned to create bitmap images, which were then converted into vector files. Simplifying the outline shapes, Sykes created 143 individual inter-connected drawings, one for each of the Eco-Cem panels that make up the exterior. Full-size friskets, or templates, were laser-cut and applied to the walls, then a sandblaster etched the final images into each panel on site.