The Baxter residence features a dynamic design move made possible by humble materials alongside advanced technology. On site, parametric CMU walls follow the existing topography, carving into the hillside. The project demonstrates that CMU, an economical alternative to pour-in-place concrete, can be reinterpreted to be both an elegant and dynamic design feature.

Rethinking The Future Awards 2021
Third Award |  Architectural Innovation of the year (Construction)

Project Name: Baxter Parametric CMU Wall
Studio Name: Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects
Design Team: Partner-In-Charge: Takashi Yanai, FAIA,
Designers: Jessica Moon, Gibran Villalobos, Melissa Cataldo, Sam Tannenbaum, Jeehye Kim
Area: Exterior parametric CMU wall area: 550 sf
Interior parametric CMU wall area: 250 sf
House: 6,029 sf
Year: 2021
Location: Los Angeles, California, United States


Builder: Dave King, Miguel Mercado
Engineer: Structural Engineer: David Lau, Johnny Aro
Masonry Installer: Levon Construction
Illustration Credits: Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects

Other Credits:
Masonry Supplier: Angelus Blocks Co.

Baxter Parametric CMU Wall By Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects - Sheet1
©Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects

To realize the vision of a reinterpreted CMU wall, the design team worked closely with the structural engineer, contractor and the masons throughout the design and construction process.

Baxter Parametric CMU Wall By Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects - Sheet2
©Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects

Leveraging Grasshopper, the team generated iterative designs where various CMU block rotations were tested and optimized, based on structural, constructability, and budget constraints. To document the parametric CMU wall accurately, a custom script was developed that transferred the rotation information in the parametric model directly to the BIM model.

Baxter Parametric CMU Wall By Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects - Sheet3
©Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects

As a result, documentation accuracy was maintained even as the design was continuously evolving. The Baxter Parametric CMU Wall also represents the power of collaboration: the masons were at first skeptical about the constructability of the wall, but in the end – utilizing custom tools specifically designed to aid in their work – they were enthusiastic and integral to the success of giving new life to a humble material.