Baxter Parametric CMU Wall

Architecture firm: Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Category: Development of Design or Design-Thinking (honorable mention)

Long considered to be an economical alternate to pour-in-place concrete, concrete masonry unit (CMU) is simple and practical but could also be perceived as cheap and utilitarian. The Baxter Parametric CMU Wall shows that this humble material can be reinterpreted to be an elegant yet dynamic feature in the project. 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. A wide breadth of tools (parametric, BIM, VR, 3D-printing, CNC) were integrated as part of the collaborative process as the collective team worked through challenges due to material and construction constrains. New tools were also developed and fabricated to facilitate the construction process and to resolve constructability issues. The end result is a humble material given new life: Baxter Parametric CMU Wall.

Architect's statement

The Baxter Parametric CMU Wall reflects our belief that good design can be transformative, regardless of the project's (or the material's) type and scale. In this case, we took a humble material and paired it up with advanced technology to give it new life. In fact, what used to be a humble material will become a dynamic feature in the project. Our curiosity to explore this material has led us to leverage a wide range of analog and digital tools and has required collaboration between many trades. Our roots in design exploration through making has also prompted us to collaborate closely with the contractor and the masons to develop and fabricate custom jigs for the construction process. It was a paradigm shifting process for all of us as we became more involved in each other's crafts and as we learned from each other. It is through this combination of collaborative attitude and curiosity that we believe how inspired environments will be made.

"The approach itself creates an "architectural expression that couldn't otherwise be fully realized" that is exemplary and likely transferable to other technical/aesthetic problems." ~ Jury statement

Additional information

Project attributes

Is the project complete: no

Construction documents phase: May-August 2018

Estimated date of construction contract: December 2017-September 2020

Project delivery: Design Bid Build

Cost - withheld

Project team

Engineer - Civil: T Engineering Group, Inc.

Engineering - MEP: South Coast Engineering Group

Engineer - Structural: David H. Lau and Associates  

General Contractor: DTK Builders

Landscape Architect - Terremoto

Masonry installer: Levon Construction

Masonry supplier: Angelus Blocks Co.


Anthony Hauck, Chair, Hypar AEC, Waltham, Massachusetts

Phillip Bernstein, FAIA, Yale School of Architecture, New Haven, Connecticut

Desiree Mackey, GEI Consultants, Denver, CO

Sera Maloney, The Foth Companies, Lake Elmo, Minnesota

Natasha Luthra, Jacobs, Philadelphia, PA

Image credits

Baxter_Parametric_CMU_Wall - 1

Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects

Baxter_Parametric_CMU_Wall - 2

Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects

Baxter_Parametric_CMU_Wall - 3

Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects

Baxter_Parametric_CMU_Wall - 4

Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects