Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

December 13, 2013

Vortex House by Murmur, Malibu

Interview with Heather Roberge


Architecture, Articles, Heather Roberge, Mummur

To tie in with our Next Generation issue, we are taking a look at three emerging practices and their accomplished first builds, from Copenhagen-based Kato x Victoria’s school playground – designed to capture the ’emotional drama’ of teenagers – to vPPR’s triangle houses in London and Murmur’s ‘inside out’ house in Malibu.Here, we catch up with Murmur

Heather Roberge established LA practice Murmur in 2008. Her research ‘investigates the influence of digital design and fabrication on architecture. It asks, how do we produce architectural surfaces with the technology we have now?’ Her first residential build, Vortex House in Malibu, was designed to capture the site’s views.

W*: How many people work for Murmur?
HR: It varies year on year. Currently it is only myself, but typically there are between three to five people working for the practice. I am the sole principal of Murmur and I set a design sensibility and agenda for the office. However, it’s also influenced by the set of people in the office at the time.

W*: Where did you work before Murmur?
HR: I’ve been teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles for 11 years. Before Murmur I founded Gnuform with my then partner Jason Payne. Before that I worked for a variety of offices, including Architecture Research Office, Peter Eisenman, and HOK.

W*: What is the Murmur approach?
HR: My research investigates architecture under the influence of digital design and fabrication. It asks, how do we produce architectural surfaces with the technology we have now?

W*: Tell us more about Vortex House.
The house is designed specifically for its location in Malibu. It’s designed inside out. When you are in the house I wanted to create an experience of being immersed in the landscape without resorting to transparency. Instead, we strategically captured the views and made them part of the scenography of the house. That work is done via the roof plane, which translates to the interior ceiling.

W*: What is the most challenging or most exciting thing about being a young architecture practice?
HR: The challenge is wearing the mantel of ’emerging’ for decades. The advantage is that the people you work with – including your clients and consultants – are intimate collaborators, and that makes it satisfying.

W*: What would be your dream commission?
Building something that would engage thousands of people rather than the tens.