At the Burns House, a vast contemporary dwelling set atop a hill in the Santa Monica Canyon, music and architecture intertwine. Designed in 1973 by Charles Moore – the mastermind behind Sea Ranch, Sonoma County’s innovative planned community – was made for Leland Moore, an architecture enthusiast and professor of urban planning and housing economics at the University from California to Los Angeles. Moore was looking for a house that followed traditional Californian design but could also house a very special feature: a solid wood organ. Burns died last year at age 87 at his Santa Monica home, and now the keys to his Santa Monica home have been passed on to the Charles Moore Foundation, an organization dedicated to preserving the work of the architect and postmodern educator.
Burns House is the third Moore-designed home to be added to the Foundation’s collection, following the Moore/Andersson Compound – Moore’s personal home and studio in Austin, Texas – and Condominium #9 at the Sea Ranch. The Foundation was founded in 1997 in Austin; his work encompasses programming related to the deceased architect, offering residencies, lectures, lectures and publication Place Notes. This latest gift will continue not only Moore’s legacy but also that of Burns and his love of music.
“In an act of astonishing generosity, the late Leland Burns bequeathed his iconic home to the Charles Moore Foundation. His remarkable gift will make two long-held aspirations come true,” Charles Moore Foundation Director Kevin Keim said in a statement shared with A.
“First, the Charles Moore Foundation will preserve another work of international distinction by one of the most important architects of the 20th century. Second, Burns House will become a place of music and architecture, a house of learning and scholarship, rehearsal and study, performance and creation.
Located at 230 Amalfi Drive, the house sits on precariously sloping ground with the residence occupying the leveled top of the canyoning site and the gardens cascading down the hillside. Its brightly colored stucco exterior stands out, yet blends in perfectly with the natural surroundings provided by the Southern California landscape. As the Charles Moore Foundation has described it, the design of Burns House is reminiscent of an “idyllic compact village, whose flat facades and shed roofs suggest an Italian town on the hills.”
The pastel tones of the home’s exterior are the work of Tina Beebe, a Yale student who researches architecture and color, who experimented on-site with many shades of pinks, oranges and red to create the finished product.
While the house itself is a marvel with its angular rooflines and rose-hued facades, its furnishings deliver an equally impressive performance. The centerpiece of the interior – and the inspiration for the entire design – is a Baroque-style pipe organ designed by German organ builder Jürgen Ahrend. The monumental musical instrument was custom built for the house. It spans two floors and stands like a pedestal at the top of the low stair platform; its 529 lead pipes are covered with decorative cedar wood fretwork. A trumpet balcony, originally from Mexico, formed of carved wood with four legs seated next to the organ serves as a choir loft. The music room has been acoustically optimized; thick plaster walls and a tiled floor, plus a 23-foot-tall Douglas fir sliding door that closes off the space, amplifies and dims booming music, resulting in a bedroom-like space that doesn’t can only be compared to a miniature concert hall.
Other eccentricities of the Burns House are its many staircases, including one that is inspired by the stone stairwell located in the Wells Cathedral Monastery in England, and another that wraps around the exterior of the house. . Offsetting the walls of the main staircase is a “cliff dwelling” of bookshelves lined with books.
As Keim explained in an Instagram post breaking the news, the transfer took years. “[Burns] and I became friends when we met nearly 25 years ago. When [Burns] First asked at lunch 12 years ago how the Burns House could be better preserved, we started making plans which led to this wonderful reality. I am so, so grateful and humbled that this special man trusted us to allow this place to thrive.
Thanks to the Charles Moore Foundation, the Burns House will be maintained as a place of preservation for architecture, in addition to music. The foundation explained that it plans to set up the residency to host residency programs for designers of all kinds, including musicians, composers, architects and writers to learn from the respective work of Moore and Burns, and let it influence their own creativity.
The Charles Moore Foundation will share more details and information on future programming in the coming weeks.