Warmly Wrapped Aluminum

Rare home—and in impeccable condition—by architect Raphael Soriano on the market
Fridays On the Homefront
The Grossman House, an L.A. historic-cultural monument, is a rare surviving example of Raphael Soriano's work. It's framed in aluminum and walled with glass, steel, aluminum, cork, and Mikarta. Photos: Ben Di Benedetti
Fridays On the Homefront
Fridays On the Homefront

Aluminum has not become a major structural material for house building since its development as a refinable metal in the late 1800s, but you can't blame architect Raphael Soriano.

The former Richard Neutra protégé and Case Study architect—he designed a notable steel Eichler too—virtually shelved his career in middle age to teach and to promote construction of aluminum houses and public buildings.

This resulted in Soriano becoming the J.D. Salinger of mid-century modernists, and a house that hit the market this month could be considered his Franny and Zooey.

It is a unique, four-bedroom, three-bath home in Studio City, for sale for the first time ever, at a surprisingly reasonable $2.895 million.

The Greek-born architect was fairly active from 1936 to 1965, a period that produced his design of a very influential Case Study house in Pacific Palisades that is known in the groundbreaking program simply by its year of completion—'1950.'

A decade later, his work with aluminum and steel houses had caught the attention of Albert Grossman, a Los Angeles businessman who sold products by several aluminum manufacturers.

"Which is why he [Mr. Grossman] sought out Soriano," says Susan Blau, listing agent with her husband Ben Di Benedetti for the 3,886-square-foot Grossman Residence. The couple has been inundated with inquiries about the property since it was listed January 3, including by many stars of the entertainment industry.

"We've had music, we've had movies, we've had TV…It's really been quite interesting," Blau replied blithely when asked what celebrities have been among the 225 visitors to the house in its first two weeks for sale. She jokingly bemoaned "an unending parade of Rolls Royces and Maseratis."

Not that the veteran realtor finds the interest in the house at 11468 Dona Cecilia Drive unwarranted, for as she noted, "I've never been in a house that was this unique."

"What makes it really, really special is the building materials," she says of the 1964 construction, which is framed in aluminum and walled with glass, steel, aluminum, cork, and Mikarta, a plastic laminate. "Yet the house feels comfy and warm!"

The two-story house holds a unique, Salinger-like position in Soriano's career for several reasons, including its presence among the 12 surviving houses of the 50 that he built. Another was built in 1955 in Palo Alto by Eichler, reportedly the first steel-framed modern house by a merchant builder.