“Does culture have an impact on architecture in the 21st century?”

A question that comes down as a hard-headed truth at a shifting pace in this changing world. The fact is that Architecture has always been influenced by Culture, and these cultural aspects are deeply rooted in values and beliefs – which are reflected in the built-in designs of the environment. There have always been instances where man faces crises affecting their continued co-existence on the planet; accommodating the gushing economic growth to repair and sustain the destruction to the natural environment; engaging and aiding people in this increasingly stratified world. But does it have a realistic contemporary solution? 

Multicultural modernism it is.

Stratifying a humanistic approach to architecture through jostling cultural influences together driven by site constraints. This principle is followed by modern traditions with; form following function and use of modern materials and technology. It was coined by Steven Ehrlich, founding partner of EYRC Architects (Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chanay) based in Culver City, California. The firm is a versatile practice earning an international reputation for its design methodologies and ideal cultural inspirations. The idea of this philosophy emerged during Ehrlich’s six-year travel to Africa, and Morocco, ranging through Sahara and Northern Nigeria. 

Multicultural modernism works on four elements; sensitivity to people and place, cross-culture fusion incorporating both local and modern, Courtyards as a counteragent for the density stress in the context, and openness to change the technical innovations involved.

700 Palms Residence

The objective of this sustainable residence was to push through the barrier between indoors and outdoors, utilize raw and local materials, and design to context to bring the essence of multicultural modernism involved in the design process as their buildings do. The residence received the 2009 AIA National Housing award

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700 Palms Residence– Front façade _© EYRC

Sensitivity to place and people 

The ideology of multicultural modernism is to impose vernacular architecture – deep from its roots into designs. Multicultural modernism is a two-fold process where it addresses sensing places and listening to people.

Sensing place traces to architecture being culturally patterned concerning context and its environment. Multicultural modernism is a two-fold process where it addresses sensing places and listening to people. It embraces time–tested materials and technologies to be involved in mitigating local climatic effects as an integral and effective element to design building.

 Open courtyards – counteragent to density stress Over the years and centuries, openness in design has been a predominant solution to the crowded context. An increase in weakened positions of urban infill has created a quest in finding refined open spaces in the infrastructures.

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700 Palms Residence– Section showing the sustainable designs ideologies _© EYRC
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700 Palms Residence– Open spaces for gathering _© Arch Daily

The house takes advantage of its local climatic context and it has been designed as a net zero building; this was achieved by creating an envelope in the façade and passive techniques through solar gains. It also houses natural ventilation, and operable shading devices eliminating mechanical ventilation despite using large glazing.

Ultimately, employing highly efficient appliances and lighting through solar power energy makes this structure an exemplary example of net zero Since the site is in a narrow lot, maximizing the use of open spaces became essential in gaining volumes and natural lighting. The concept of a courtyard is also introduced where they afford privacy and enhance the welfare of the inhabitants.

Flexible and metamorphic spaces were incorporated in creating sustainable design techniques as such, the 16 feet high ceiling living-dining room is opened on three sides; to the north courtyard; to the lap pool in the west; to the guest house and garden in the south. Creating an opening on three sides of the living room gives it another purpose for inhabitants to house them as an airy pavilion. The exterior courtyard houses a lot of native plants in harmony with its climatic conditions to reduce the water consumption involved.

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700 Palms Residence– Living room facing the courtyards at North _© EYRC
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700 Palms Residence – Swimming pool as a connecting factor between interiors and exteriors with native plant use _© EYRC
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700 Palms Residence– Living room facing the pool at West _© EYRC

Cross – Culture fusion 

With the advent of modernism, traditional architecture has lost its place in this global village. But multicultural modernism has been a savior in reviving architecture showing it doesn’t have to be always a –way to approach and incorporate multiple cultures into a single entity.

 The house is designed as such, where it takes inspiration from multiple countries Steven has visited during his six-year expenditure. The dwelling has drawn inspiration from Morocco, Africa, and Japan. Marrakech souks were taken as inspirations for the façade of the house, where the concept of a courtyard came from African houses which open on three sides, and the stairs inside represent the Tansu stairs from Japanese culture.

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700 Palms Residence– Inspirations from Marrakech souks colors have been incorporated into the facade _© EYRC
700 Palms Residence– Inspirations from Japanese features have been incorporated _© EYRC


  1. “700 Palms Residence / Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects” 01 Mar 2011. Arch Daily.. <https://www.archdaily.com/115324/700-palms-residence-ehrlich-architects> ISSN 0719-8884 [Accessed 2 Oct 2022]
  2. Alex Tembaldor (November 23, 2020) An architect’s Venice home draws inspiration Around the world.  Available at https://www.dwell.com/article/genesis-escapes-700-palms-eyrc-705a3ee2 [Accessed 2 Oct 2022]

Varsha Mini Veronica, an architect and urban enthusiast, driven by desire to envision modes of sustainability through design as a tool highlighting architectural writing as the medium to critique, create a demand for better architecture for society. Her strengths include her as a vertical thinker, as she believes in developing platforms that are not just human- centric but to address the livability of the environment.