In Malibu, California, a $49.5 million architectural marvel honoring the beauty of the ocean has hit the market. The stunning six-bedroom home, also known as the Wave House, was created in the 1950s by visionary architect Harry Gesner. The home’s aesthetic was said to be inspired by the Sydney Opera House.
Legend has it that Gesner spent several days camping at the site when he had the idea for the unusual 6,200-square-foot home that rests on less than an acre of oceanfront land. He immersed himself in the natural surroundings and watched the waves as they ebbed and flowed. He is reported to have developed the blueprints for the home while surfing one of these waves, drawing them with a grease pencil directly on his surfboard. At high tide, he envisioned the Wave House extending into the waves, merging with the sea, with projecting rooflines resembling breaking waves.
Originally created for Gesner’s friends and fellow surfers Gerry and Glenn Coope, the house was a radical departure from standard 1950s architecture with its curved walls, beams and cantilevered ceilings. However, the undertaking was an immediate success and helped bring Gesner to prominence in the mid-century California Modern movement.
Harry Gesner’s rise to international fame was aided by the Wave House, which attracted the interest of Jrn Utzon, the Danish architect responsible for the iconic Sydney Opera House. Zen Gesner, one of the listing agents and Harry Gesner’s son, claims Utzon personally contacted Gesner to praise the home’s brilliance and acknowledge its effect on the Australian landmark.
“My dad was absolutely amazed that this architect went out of his way to reach out to him and compliment him on his design,” the younger Gesner told the Wall Street Journal. “Most architects are egomaniacs. They don’t tend to tip their hat to any other architect.”
Star-studded musical past
Musician Rod Stewart bought the Wave House in the 1970s. The British singer was a nice neighbor, according to Zen Gesner, who grew up next door in a building called Sandcastle House that his father also created. Zen Gesner remembers the rock star often dancing on the property’s rail-free deck. The Wave House underwent a number of improvements by Stewart, including the addition of railings and substantial concrete piers for extra support.
Mo Ostin, a music industry executive who oversaw Warner Brothers Records for many years, most recently owned the Wave House. In addition, he was a noted art collector. Earlier last month in New York, a significant Sotheby’s evening auction of his blue-chip collection fetched US$123.7 million (all but one sold).
Any of the 15 lots from the Mo Ostin sale that were hung in the Wave House are unknown. Following the architect’s passing in 2022, the same year Mo Ostin passed away at age 95, the listing comes less than a month after the nearby Sandcastle House went on the market for $27.5 million. Zen Gesner hopes a bidder will buy the two properties and protect the twin cornerstones of Malibu’s architectural heritage.