The third, most recent season of Westworld serves as quite a departure for the HBO series, with the dystopian science fiction drama venturing outside the Wild West-themed android-run amusement park where it is centered and into the futuristic world of Los Angeles circa 2058. Executing the ambitious endeavor required a mind-blowing 3,000 special effects carried out by nine different specialty companies! As visual effects supervisor Jay Worth explained to VFX Voice, “Every inch of every frame is designed. You can’t really point the camera anywhere in the [“Westworld”] world without [visual effects], the art department or costume having to touch it.”
Cast and crew also had to venture quite a bit outside the “Thirty Mile Zone” to create the heavily stylized real-world-ish backdrop of season three, visiting such far-flung locales as San Diego, Singapore and Spain. The dizzying schedule had production designer Howard Cummings telling Architectural Digest, “This year was really a global endeavor. I didn’t actually sleep very much.”
The exhaustive efforts were well worth it, though. In a show that has become synonymous with gorgeous settings, season three stands out, with episodes making use of such architectural gems as the City of Arts and Sciences complex in Valencia, the School of the Arts in Singapore and the Crescent House in Encinitas.
Purported to be located in Beihai, China, on the series, the latter actually sits perched atop a craggy cliff about 25 miles north of San Diego. And deep-pocketed fans will soon have the chance to turn all of their Westworld fantasies into reality as the dwelling is scheduled to hit the market in mid-May! Repped by Kelly Howard and Lisa Waltman of Compass, the trophy pad comes with a $23.5 million price tag. Both longtime Encinitas residents, the two agents describe the abode as “standing alone in terms of its uniqueness and quality.” A monument of concrete, steel and glass boasting an impressive 74 feet of Pacific Ocean frontage, the structure truly is unparalleled in virtually every way.
The two-story residence was commissioned in 2003 by developer Bud Fischer, who was behind San Diego’s famed Gaslamp Quarter, and his wife, Esther. Designed by prolific local architect and three-time Architectural Digest “Top 100 Designer” Wallace E. Cunningham, the four-bedroom, six-bath, 6,329-square-foot property took three years to complete.
Rife with both angular and rounded elements, the layout was inspired by the curvature of the moon. The listing states, “The first thing visitors see when entering the beautiful home is an infinity pool which is shaped like a crescent moon, wrapped around a circular terrace — hence the name ‘Crescent House.”
Though sandwiched between two large properties on a bustling coastal street, the dwelling offers the ultimate in privacy. The design, Cunningham told Architectural Digest in a 2005 profile, “results from the site configuration and a desire to isolate the interiors from the neighborhood.” As such, the property makes spectacular use of its 0.43-acre lot.
Featuring an open floor plan and an “upside-down” orientation, the guest rooms are located on the lower level with the main living areas, including the family room, dining room and kitchen, as well as the owners’ suite, situated upstairs, so as to take better advantage of the stunning ocean and city views.
The angular living room, especially, was built to highlight the outdoors. As Cunningham expressed to Architectural Digest, “Because of the shape of the space, the thrust of the beams and trellis skylight overhead, and its apparent suspension above the water, one has the sense of being on a ship at sea.” Indeed, the enclave genuinely does seem to float above the cascading Pacific below.
Despite the abundance of gray concrete, which can often render a property cold and stark, the Crescent House appears warm and inviting, thanks largely to the floor-to-ceiling windows which draw the bright sunlight and blue of the ocean in, beckoning inhabitants to cozy up and enjoy the view.
Cunningham described the residence as “a sculpture of movement, space and light” and it certainly does have the feel of a three-dimensional work of art. Even the stairway is a showpiece! Featuring stainless steel treading, the span, which twists and turns into itself, was modeled after “the vertebrae and ribs of a great dinosaur” and looks more like it should be hanging on display at a museum rather than tucked inside a private residence.
The Crescent House has only been listed twice in the two decades since it was built and, on both occasions, it sold less than a month after hitting the market, which is astonishing considering its price point. The current owners, who utilize the place as a vacation property, picked it up in 2016 for $11.1 million — the highest residential purchase ever in Encinitas. According to the listing information, “Upon selling, it will break its own record for the most expensive home sold in the history” of the seaside city.
So it is no surprise that the monolith was chosen to portray the residence of ultra-wealthy tech investor Gerald (Thomas Kretschmann) on Westworld.
The season three premiere, titled “Parce Domine,” opens on the structure, though some significant modifications were made to get the place ready for its close-up, as evidenced in the screen capture and MLS photograph above. For the episode, a special effects team digitally added extensive wings to both the north and south sides of the property in order to make it appear even larger than it actually is. All of the neighboring homes were also wiped away, giving the pad an isolated look very similar to that of Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) Point Dume estate in Iron Man. The resemblance is rather ironic being that the Stark residence, which doesn’t actually exist in real life but was just a digital rendering created for the screen, was inspired by the Razor House in La Jolla, yet another Wallace Cunningham design.
The Westworld production team had initially planned on utilizing the Salk Institute for the shoot, but, as Cummings explained to The Architect’s Newspaper, “ended up falling in love with this house with a texture that almost blends into the rocks beneath it.”
The pad’s cement make-up proved attractive to the team, as well. Cummings expressed, “We felt that concrete provides a real atmosphere and texture to modern buildings. It can be formed into anything; it’s got incredible fluidity while still being foreboding.”
And Gerald’s house is nothing if not foreboding onscreen! In “Parce Domine,” the pad acts as an AI-controlled smart home, which becomes a prison of sorts, a glass-walled labyrinth inside of which the evil entrepreneur is trapped by Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) as part of a revenge plot. Spoiler — “Gerry” doesn’t make it out alive, instead meeting an untimely, bloody and well-deserved end in the property’s pool. As all Westworld denizens well know, “Violent delights have violent ends!”