A HOUSE ALMOST always takes shape from the bottom up--foundation, perhaps a basement, then a ground floor, and so on until topped off by the roof. An exception to this usual progression is a striking house recently completed at the boxcar end of Dixie Canyon Place, south of Valley Vista Drive in Sherman Oaks.
From the street, the angular, stucco-clad house appears to be of conventional construction. But actually, it is suspended from steel-reinforced concrete pilings set deep into a cliff. It was built, in effect, from the top down, like an upside-down pyramid, with the larger floor space on the upper levels tapering to a small entry at the ground level.
Builders excavated not the ground beneath the 3,000-square-foot-plus structure but the rear cliff, creating what amounts to three terraces, onto which the wood-frame house was fitted. Acting as a buttress and anchor to the suspended structure is a well-hidden elevator shaft.
The structure, which avoided the usual cut-and-fill approach to hillside housing and preserved the natural contours of the site, was devised by architects Heinz Meier and Victor Schumacher of Meier, Schumacher and Associates, Santa Monica, with the aid of structural engineer Eugene Birnbaum. Not coincidentally, Meier and Schumacher were born and educated in Switzerland, where designers commonly cope with steep terrain.