Starship Malibu : A Space-Age Home Takes Shape Above Paradise Cove

<i> Sam Hall Kaplan is The Times' design critic. </i>

Stretching horizontally 160 feet and featuring an appendage shaped like a Ferris wheel, the raw, red-steel framework perched on concrete pylons atop a hill in Malibu looks like a space station under construction. When completed next summer and clad in stainless steel and glass, this residential structure above Paradise Cove will also function like a space station, according to architect Edward Niles.

“Because the site is so exposed, we wanted something protective that also takes advantage of the view,” Niles explains. Other design goals included easy maintenance, the ability to alter and add rooms, and the separation of family and entertainment areas. “Happily, I was able to experiment,” adds the architect, who is known for his distinctive designs for a select Malibu-based clientele.

The result is a steel spine, off of which will be cantilevered pods of various shapes and sizes that will serve as sleeping areas, bathrooms, a master suite, a galley kitchen and a library. “Each pod is separate and can be changed, and new ones can be added if necessary simply by plugging them into the spine, just as if it were a space station,” Niles says. He adds that the central structure will function as the corridor of the “private zone” and as the mechanical core of the house, with easy access to the electrical and plumbing lines below and a solar-energy collection system above. An enclosed bridge will lead from the spine to the Ferris wheel-like structure, which will house the living room, the so-called public zone. The finished structure, engineered by Dimetri Vergun, will total 4,200 square feet.

Niles says he did not start out to design what no doubt will be a landmark high-tech-style house, given its dramatic location, machine-like parts and Space Age materials. “We weren’t seeking an image,” he explains, “but simply wanted something very functional, site-specific and user-sensitive that made no pretense of being anything except a man-made object.


“That it looks like a space station is coincidental.”