Beit Ha-Ahava: CA architect builds a house wrapped in love

Beit Ha-AhavaBob Hale, of Rios Clementi Hale Studios, wrapped his house in LA’s Cheviot Hills neighborhood in a perforated-metal screen like the Arabian screens the mashrabiya, which provide shade and privacy. But Hale’s home is punched with “ahava” –  the Hebrew word for love.

Among the fine arts, I think architecture is most like music. Successful buildings are harmonious, internally and in relation to their environment; disparate elements are connected by rhythm and movement.  They have texture, they conjure mood. But the California architect has approached architecture as literature, with fabulous results.

Cheviot-Hills-House

The three-story, 5,000-square-foot House of Love, or Beit Ha-Ahava, replaced a 1940s home that couldn’t be adapted to suit the architect’s needs. So he demolished it and donated all scrap material to Habitat for Humanity. (Beit Ha-Ahava also loves the planet!)

The structure is partially built into a hill, allowing creation of a separate apartment with a private entrance located on ground level, constructed of concrete. Hale, who has two grown children, told Architectural Record, “We wanted to think about it as multigenerational.”

Cheviot-Hills-HouseThe second floor is clad with glass and houses the main living spaces, which open onto a terrace and swimming pool.

But it’s on the third level that the architect wrote his love letter, wrapping the rooms in corrugated-aluminum panels with perforations that spell ahava, which is Hebrew for “love”.

Cheviot-Hills-House“We tend to not open the screens because it’s almost like they’re not there,” says Hale. “They read more like a cloud and create great shadows.”

There’s a bittersweet backstory to the design.  In 2006, Hale’s first wife of 23 years died. His new wife, Maxine Morris, came up with the idea for the ahava perforations.

“It was like, OK, let’s really start over and make a new way,” says Hale. “I didn’t start out to make a home wrapped in love, but in fact that’s what I ended up with.”

All images by Undine Pröhl for Architectural Record

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