Modern Design with – Engineer Koje Shoraka

Those of you who visit here often are aware of Marc’s signature specialties and design elements – hillsides, levels, glass walls, high ceilings and rooms that flow together. We have yet to mention someone who has played an essential part in the creation of many of our houses – structural engineer Koje Shoraka of Efficient Consulting Engineers Inc. (ECE), in Los Angeles. Ms. Shoraka is also a professor at the Woodbury School of Architecture. We recently had a chance to chat about the challenges and opportunities afforded her in working on a Whipple Russell Architects project.

She has worked on two of our most talked about projects, Hopen Place and Summit Drive. Let’s start with Hopen Place, as it was a hillside project with lots of glass and an underground level. She explained that before she begins her work the geotechnical engineer has already completed work at the site. She looks at the soil report, and using their findings she determines the best approach that complies with regulations for the specific seismic zone. Earthquake safety is a top consideration in California. As Koje said, “Marc’s pools are beautiful and interesting with many elements, he often wants his pools not in the flat middle of the property but at the edge, for the view.” This wet-edge pool with the view below as seen in the Hopen design calls for considerable structural support. She often uses a 10 to 20 ft deep pile foundation combined with a concrete grade beam system.

And speaking of digging, this house has an underground theater with windows looking into the pool. This required Koje to create a pool wall that is also the wall of the theater and could accommodate windows without compromising strength.

The light, ‘floating' effect in Marc’s interiors is achieved through the use of glass walls and pocket sliders, minimally divided rooms; but also some behind the scenes Koje magic is at work. Much is the art of disguise; instead of thin walls, she explained that Marc’s designs require thicker exterior walls. These double-sided walls hide structural elements, so frames, columns, and bolts are invisible – giving a smooth crispness to the lines of the house.

Koje certainly helps us fulfill our core promises to our clients: distilling the design to its simplest form, and having our plans and systems provide peace of mind.