Architect Pouya Payan is founder of Labyrinth Design Studio in Los Angeles, California. His work spans remodels and new builds from Rancho Palos Verdes to Santa Monica to Hollywood Hills. We sat down with Pouya to talk about what it takes to build a highly functional client-architect relationship and how his latest project, the modernist Los Feliz residence designed for a young couple, came about.
You have been practicing architecture for over 15 years. Has your client base evolved over that period of time?
You know, Los Angeles is a very special place. The city has a lot of hills, ocean views, it's got a variety of neighborhoods, each with a unique character.
One thing that has significantly changed with residential architecture in LA is the gradual shift toward modern buildings. Many people building their dream homes today go from Tudor-style, Spanish or other traditional style homes built in LA over the decades toward more modern homes that are very functional and architecturally relatively simple.
We are standing on a job site about half a mile from the Griffith Observatory. What is so special about this new house in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles?
This building is really one of my favorite buildings I have designed. It's really great that I actually got a chance to build it myself too. We started on this project in a historic neighborhood. Just look around, and you can see a lot of Spanish and English Tudor homes in our vicinity.
When we started designing this house, the client really wanted a modern building. But, at the same time, my client also wanted a touch of traditional. So we took English Tudor, we modernized it, and that's how we came up with high-pitched roofs. Also my skiing background had probably something to do with the design too — skiing led me to fall in love with A-Frame mountain cabins. Those are the influences that informed design of this house. This project is very dear to me and has even evolved a little during the construction as we saw this house come alive.
When people decide to hire an architect, it is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience. How do you work with clients?
When I first meet with a client, which typically happens in my office, we try to get to know each other better, and see if we vibe well together. I designed many buildings over the years, so I always try to make myself compatible with my clients in many ways.
At the same time, if I get deeper into the project and the client asks me to lead the actual construction, I absolutely want to be on the same wavelength with the client. When we truly connect during the design and permitting process, I feel more comfortable to suggest we move from a design-only model to a design-build model.
Believe me, it is a huge change from being solely an architect to coming to the job site as a project guy and seeing the house getting built — you are always facing unexpected situations you have to solve, there are always some modifications, but they all are for the betterment of the project. That’s why I like doing building construction in addition to architectural design.
Your architectural practice specializes in single-family and multi-family homes. What is home for you?
I love the warmth in home. As a shelter, practically any home will protect you, but a true home should support your needs and give you that warm feeling. I always consider that when I’m designing a home — to give you the sense of coming back to where you belong.
Interior doors: The Los Feliz modern residence project by Pouya Payan features frameless floor-to-ceiling Dorsis Fortius doors with hidden door jambs and Dorsis Belport concealed pocket doors from Angelbau.