The second studio podcast: interview with Steven Ehrlich


The second studio podcast: interview with Steven Ehrlich

The Second Studio (formerly The Midnight Charette) is an explicit podcast on design, architecture and everyday life. Hosted by architects David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet, it presents different creative professionals in unscripted conversations that allow for thoughtful shots and personal discussions.

A variety of topics are treated with honesty and humor: some episodes are interviews, while others are advice for other designers, reviews of buildings and other projects, or informal explorations of everyday life and of design. The second workshop is also available on itunes, Spotify, and Youtube.

This week David and Marina are joined by Steven Ehrlich, FAIA, RIBA and founding partner of Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects to discuss his work as an architect for the Peace Corps in Morocco, his architectural office in Los Angeles, Julius Shulman , his work, current challenges in the profession, and more.

House of the Spectral Bridge.  Image © Matthew Millman PhotographyHouse of the Spectral Bridge.  Image © Matthew Millman PhotographyHouse of the Spectral Bridge.  Image © Matthew Millman PhotographyHouse of the Spectral Bridge.  Image © Matthew Millman Photography+ 9

Highlights and timestamps

Steven’s first interests in architecture and his work as an architect for the Peace Corps in Morocco. (00:00)

I had this urge to build things very early on, when I was a kid. When I was 12, I designed a solar house for my science fair project. And by the way, at the time, in 1958, nobody was talking about solar houses. Most of the research I was able to do was in a magazine called Popular Mechanic, nothing in architectural books or magazines! (01:23)

Ridge Mountain.  Image courtesy of Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects
Ridge Mountain. Image courtesy of Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects

On the work of an architect in Morocco

The architecture is there. It’s right there. It is not a question of style. It’s not about ‘look at this or’ am I different? This is the most gracious and the simplest answer to the climate, the environment and the materials at hand. All of this is therefore very fundamental. You get the best at least in a way and it left a very lasting impression on me. (08:53)

Ridge Mountain.  Image courtesy of Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects
Ridge Mountain. Image courtesy of Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects

Steven moved to Los Angeles and started his own practice, and Julius Shulman photographed one of Steven’s first projects. (12:55)

[At the beginning,] I was sort of an expert in renovating closets and bathrooms. It was tedious, but I got through it. Then I had a real breakthrough where my clients wanted to build a painting and photography studio right next to a Richard Neutra house they owned in the Hollywood Hills. I designed a very pure, simple, cubic composition of stucco, steel and glass… truly exploring how light enters. When it was finished, I contacted Julius Shulman to see if he was interested in photographing it. He got very excited after I showed him because he was very tired and anti-postmodernist movement. […] He took these beautiful pictures and he said, “I’m going to help you launch your career” And you know what? He did. In less than six months, he was on the cover of New York Times home section of the newspaper. (21:05)

House of the Spectral Bridge.  Image © Matthew Millman Photography
House of the Spectral Bridge. Image © Matthew Millman Photography

The challenges of diversifying to carry out different types of projects and the growth of the office. (25:25)

It is very difficult for a new architect to get a public project if you haven’t already. I have to say that it is much more difficult today than it was 40 years ago, because today in the submissions it is written “Show us in the last five years the last three libraries you created ”. It’s a Catch 22. It really is.(26:00)

House of the Spectral Bridge.  Image © Matthew Millman Photography
House of the Spectral Bridge. Image © Matthew Millman Photography

EYRC’s Culver City, California office takes inspiration from early modern California architecture and renovates a Schindler home. (38:08)

When we have done the renovation or rehabilitation of [the Schindler home], we answered all the questions in such a way that we didn’t feel like we had to be slaves to architecture. We said, “What would Schindler do today?” And not to be married to what he literally did in 1940. So we opened up the kitchen to the living space. And by the way, it’s a 1,000 square foot house. It is very modest. It is now effectively a whole new house… This is Schindler’s vision, but refreshed. (39:55)

Ridge Mountain.  Image courtesy of Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects
Ridge Mountain. Image courtesy of Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects

Describe the work of the EYRC and the construction design. (46:05)

I wouldn’t use that word to describe our work as pretty. No, no, this is not allowed! We cannot use that word. […] We don’t have a one-size-fits-all way to do it. We don’t create a brand. We like to approach every project in a fairly empirical way, whether it is a house, an office complex or a university building. We want to solve it from an empirical point of view and understand the urban context, the environmental constraints… We like to be sensitive ecologically and culturally. […] So, we have no style! Ha! (46:12)

House of the Spectral Bridge.  Image © Matthew Millman Photography
House of the Spectral Bridge. Image © Matthew Millman Photography

The kind of project Steven Ehrlich would like to design. Steven’s own home, 700 Palms. Design process. (59:00)

The structure of the EYRC office. The challenges of architectural production today. (01:12:56)

Steven Ehrlich’s favorite buildings. (01:20:42)

Check out previous editions of The Second Studio Podcast.



Comments are closed.