Copyright 2003-2022

Whole Grain Tetris | Venice, CA

The city is an open system with no hierarchy, only differentiation. Whole Grain Tetris serves as a piece of the urban fabric that is organized based on differentiation, not hierarchy. The project operates in the same manner as a developer would, by first subdividing the land and creating parcel lines, then developing buildings.

The first task is to lay down the subdivision lines. Just as land lots have certain proportions, and streets have certain characteristics, Whole Grain Tetris breaks down the site into different “lots,” the boundaries of which are still visible, so that the site in effect begins to operate like the city of Los Angeles.

Tetris is the tool used to accomplish this, as it is a game that requires a strategy of organization. It is the logic of the project, and has a recognizable imageability. Each major programmatic element is assigned to a unique tetrad, and the required/desired adjacencies of these programs dictate the overall organization of the tetrads within the field. Anchoring onto Whole Foods, they spread across the site creating a strong horizontal datum which then turns up into a housing tower with a combination of studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom units.


The S: Operates as a container for micro-tetrads. Its use as mainly housing creates the opportunity to set up blocks of units within the larger pieces (i.e. 1-bedroom units combine to form a smaller scale L that fits inside the larger S). There is also the possibility of elements within each housing unit to take on the form of a tetrad based on whether they need to be private (bathroom, bedroom) or open (living room, kitchen).

The L: Operates as an isolated volume grain, where spaces are defined by curvilinear walls divorced from the tetrad’s parcel line (outer edges). They become independent spaces and their configuration creates a condition that allows circulation around all sides.

The SQUARE: Operates as a double height, clear span space used for recreation and fitness activities. It is distinguished from the diaphragm structure of the BAR by its use of a deeper, two-way spanning system.

The T: Operates as an open plan structured by a grid of columns. Any walls placed within are purely for partition, and are pulled away from the columns so as to become secondary. This grain provides large spaces for community gatherings, banquets, etc.

The BAR: Operates as a diaphragm grain; there is a strong rhythm moving perpendicular to the orientation of the tetrad. This typology is most suitable for offices, business incubator spaces, and library stacks, which are neatly packed inside. Where walls run the length of the tetrad, they break in and out of their plane in order to retain the overall rhythm.


The initial phase includes treating the entire site as a park composed of tetrads. Each tetrad in park form is characterized by a different surface condition. The BAR comprises planks of wood highlighted by linear shrubs in a regular rhythm. The L comprises grasscrete with curvilinear planters/shrubs. The T comprises an even grid of trees set into a recycled rubber surface. The SQUARE comprises an even grid of square concrete pavers with interspersed patches of grass. The S comprises red bricks.

Each subsequent phase sees the extrusion of these tetrads as needed, to create enclosed volumes. The roof surface of these volumes is identical to its ground counterpart, the only difference being the addition of parking stalls within each tetrad to create a multi-use parking/recreation roofscape. Each enclosed volume is treated with a distinct “grain,” signifying to the visitor his or her location within the building.

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