By Matthew Power. This striking beachfront concrete home drew the admiration of judges for its "brutal" beauty and flawless attention to simple, stark form. At four stories tall, this studio-cum-residence pushes the limits of residential living. Interior spaces are minimalistic--hard surfaces with wide hallways, relatively small bathrooms, and a flood of natural light.

The client's main focus was to make the home a functional art studio with flattering light quality and easy movement of art objects. "Most of the homes in the area are wood frame but fairly eclectic," notes architect David Hibbert, "so we had no real opposition from neighbors. The owner wanted concrete floors so she could wheel large art pieces around, and there were other complex features--a dark room, an elevator, and good sound barriers throughout."

The poured concrete, of course, made a natural sound buffer. Builder Michael Tarantino, who has complete mastery of the material, finished it without adding colorizers. "We did a burn finish on the concrete floors," he notes. "As the concrete dries, you just keep finishing until it looks burned."

"We worked from the ground up," Tarantino continues, "pouring each floor separately. All the forms were made with FinPly, a very smooth plywood, so there are almost no visible seams. The project took about a month and a half per floor because we ran all conduits in the floor and ceiling, along with a lot of the plumbing--copper supply lines and cast iron drains."

Developing the home's 100-by-43-foot lot, located next to the busy Pacific Coast Highway, cost about $100,000, on top of the half million paid for the parcel.

Photo: 2000 Fotoworks

Construction costs for the 4,538-square-foot home hit about $230 per square foot. The site is noisy and highly visible--thus the fortress-like half walls of concrete to hide decks from view. Large expanses of the exterior are clad in costly titanium sheets, chosen both for their color and their resistance to salt air corrosion. A natural ventilation system circulates fresh air throughout the home.

Category: Custom home, 3,500 square feet or more; Entrant/Architect: David Forbes Hibbert, Santa Monica, Calif.; Builder: Tarantino Construction, Chatsworth, Calif.; Landscape Architect: Todd Bennitt, Long Beach, Calif.

Super Floors

"The client wanted high ceilings," notes architect David Hibbert, "but we had a tough overall height limit, so we used post-tensioned concrete floors." For the builder, that meant weaving two layers of rebar plus electrical conduit and radiant heating within the same narrow confines.

Photo: 2000 Fotoworks

"That took a lot of extra time," says builder Michael Tarantino. "When working with concrete, you have to get it perfect the first time."

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