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STYLE : ARCHITECTURE : Hit and Myth

February 16, 1992|MICHAEL WEBB

Two young architects have reached back into Greek mythology and played games with geometry to enliven a new house in Venice. Working with a creative couple on a tight budget, Miriam Mulder and Richard Katkov, who formed Mulder-Katkov in 1986, sought their inspiration from the myth of Pegasus, the winged horse that rose from the body of Medusa and later kicked over the fountain of the Muses. The result: an exciting residence rather than a plain stucco box.

The clients--he's an artist, she's a writer--spend much of their time working at home, so they wanted to stretch what they could afford, two stories and 2,200 square feet, to create a diversity of light and distinctive volumes. The 48-by-132-foot lot is unusually large for Venice and bordered by alleys, so the owners also needed privacy. They didn't want an impenetrable fortress, however. Mulder and Katkov gave them a plain but unthreatening facade: small window openings in an expanse of white stucco and whitewashed plywood that serves as a canvas for the play of light and shadows from trees along the street.

Still to come in the back yard is a cubical garage with a studio on top. Mulder and Katkov are striving to create the illusion that this unit, once built, was cut out from the main structure. Big windows in the dining room and a railed terrace above form a void at the corner of the house, which seems to float over a square reflecting pool. Rising diagonally from this pool is a stylized image of Pegasus--its foreleg a downspout from the roof, its wings of plywood enclosing a staircase inside.

Like the facade, the interior is a blank canvas. On the ground floor, the kitchen, living and dining areas form a continuous space; opening off the entry hall are a studio and guest room. A free-floating wood staircase rises within the skylit wedge between the plywood wings. Upstairs, a walk around a diagonal wall reveals the master bedroom; at the front of the house is yet another small studio.

As in their earlier houses and commercial structures, Mulder and Katkov, both graduates of the Southern California Institute of Architects, have tweaked simple forms and materials here to create spaces with attitude.

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