David Hertz's Design Faces Forward

Every now and then, we meet a person who views life like us. They see the same social ills, the same signs of hope, and the same factors related to our conception of goodness, beauty, and truth. They speak our language. And while we can't entirely know where we diverge in our opinions, for me, the most recent source of lifeview overlap was David Hertz.  

Who is David Hertz? He's a restorative architect. An artist. An inventor. And a bad ass.

Why? Because he gets it. He just gets it.

What do I mean by that? He has great taste. He's detail-obsessed. He's environmentally-conscious. He believes in giving back to community. And he puts his money where his mouth is, paying it forward to diverse communities, supporting their growth and development.

What is his design philosophy? Homes should be restorative. Not only are they restorative to the mind, body, and spirit of their inhabitants, but they're restorative to the environment that they themselves inhabit.

On being restorative to people, Hertz builds homes that connect people to the outside world. The indoor space of his homes connects to the outdoor space harmoniously.

On being restorative to the environment, Hertz believes that buildings should generate more than they take. They should provide green space, nurture vegetation, output oxygen and fresh air, as well as capture water. Hertz makes sure his homes are restorative by calculating the entire life cycle of a home's energy production and consumption, only building when expected energy output is greater than expected energy input.

In the spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright and John Lautner (to whom Hertz was an apprentice), Hertz pays great attention to the environmental surroundings of where he chooses to build. He deeply studies the topography of the site, the path of the sun, and the wind flow of the area. Additionally, natural local materials are always used to bring Hertz's design vision to fruition.

While there are so many Hertz designs that we could look at, I'm particularly struck by the House on Horizon Hill. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this house is located in Yachats, Oregon. In the middle of a heavy storm zone, it's designed to protect the owners from strong winds and heavy rains. Its copper scuppers channel rain into collection basins. Local cedar, fir, and boulders provide the home's material. And perhaps most notably, the house creates breathtakingly beautiful viewpoints. One is of the hill above; others are views of the home's impressive Japanese-inspired courtyard and rock garden seen from the living, dining, and bedroom areas of the home, all of which frame the courtyard.

The House on Horizon Hill was built in 2001, demonstrating an older, more classic style of Hertz, but something done more recently by him is the Airbnb Eco Pod. A self-sufficient little living space, the Eco Pod rests in Venice, California. It's completely green and includes vertical plant walls with flourishing vegetation, herbs, and flowers. Also aesthetically beautiful, the space proves that one doesn't need to have a huge budget in order to execute gorgeous design.

In recent times, Hertz has turned his attention to other projects of small scale or progressive directions. He mentions tiny homes as an interest of his. He also mentions new millennium housing options with a healthy community living focus (The New Yorker referred to these group yoga-facilitating pads as "dorm life for adults"). Yet another project is providing fresh, clean water to homeless communities. Capturing humidity in the air via an atmospheric water generator, Hertz can give water out for free from a pump on the side of a van in Venice, California. Ever the forward-thinking architect, Hertz is simultaneously addressing environmental and human problems: the California drought, urban overpopulation, and socioeconomic inequality.

And aren't these concerns only becoming more pressing with time? It's been predicted that by 2030, five billion people will reside in cities, 40% of them living below the poverty line (Dwell Magazine). Creative solutions are urgently needed to meet the housing demands of these individuals.

Change is in the air, but in what direction is it blowing? 

At the Dwell On Design Conference of 2016, I had the opportunity to ask David Hertz his take while face to face.

I asked, "Do you imagine the philosophy behind the homes you've designed, which we can mostly only catch glimpses of in places like Malibu or Venice, California, will eventually be adopted throughout the U.S.? That is to say, will we be able to see such environmentally-aware design while driving through the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa?"

To summarize his answer, he replied, "I'm hopeful. I believe American people are innovative and resilient. We've bounced back from major world wars and economic decline. I believe that we'll be resourceful enough to change the way we design and live because our very survival depends on it."

With so much uncertainty in the air, I hope he's right. And whether that's through unique urban housing solutions, restorative design across the nation/larger globe, or natural resource-preserving inventions and large-scale distribution, let's hope that more and more people can benefit from the design creativity of individuals like David Hertz. 

(All photos courtesy of davidhertzfaia.com)