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Best of the Best 2002: Home & Design: Best Architects

Site for Sore Eyes

“Your neighbor is the enemy—who knows what he’s going to build—so I always tell clients to buy land at the edge of a national park,” says Hugh Newell Jacobsen, who has been practicing architecture from his Washington, D.C., office since 1958. What draws him to a site is a great view, whether it’s of a pond, a lake, or a village. “When I arrive at a site, I drive around in concentric circles for maybe a 50-mile radius,” he says. “I study the houses that have been there for years and see how they are positioned to deal with the light and wind and rain. That’s how I want my houses to look—not like isolated islands, but part of the community. My buildings belong; they aren’t dated like sliced bread. My houses have good manners; they don’t jump out at you. My job is to create houses that fade into the background. The people are more important than all of the furniture and the art. I have not done my job when the wife answers the doorbell and her guest says, ‘My dear, who is your architect?’ I have done my job when the guest says, ‘My dear, you look wonderful.’ ”

Hugh Newell Jacobsen, 202.337.5200, www.hughjacobsen.com

The Kings of Cool

The Santa Monica–based design-build firm Marmol Radziner + Associates has become synonymous with the restoration of cool mid-century modern houses, in particular Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann house in Palm Springs, which became a five-year archaeological dig. “If we get boxed in, being in a Neutra box is a good one to be in,” says Leo Marmol. “We learned so much from that restoration that we apply every day to our other projects.” Since the completion of the Kaufmann house, Marmol and Ron Radziner have tackled Tom Ford’s Neutra house in Bel-Air, and restorations of houses by other modern masters, such as A. Quincy Jones and Buff, Straub and Hensman. The firm was recently selected to produce a commemorative line of reproduction furniture from Rudolph Schindler’s house in West Hollywood. But historical restoration isn’t the firm’s only strength. The partners are currently creating from scratch a house in the modern Spanish style of Irving Gill. And they practice what modernism preaches: Use as few materials as possible to make as much as possible. “In a perfect world,” Marmol says, “we would never use paint.”

Marmol Radziner + Associates, 310.264.1814, www.marmol-radziner.com

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