Saturday, October 22, 2016

Irving Gill Tour

Horatio West Court, Santa Monica
I fell in love with architecture in the 1980s when the library where I was working, in San Diego County, asked me to start ordering books in the 700s. For those who don't know, books in the Dewey Decimal 700s consist of art, music, sports, TV, movies, and, of course, architecture. Although adept at all the other subjects, I knew nothing about architecture, so I signed up for a tour of houses designed by Irving Gill. I was hooked.

A contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright, Gill started his career in Chicago, but in 1893 moved to San Diego, where he became a noted and prolific architect. A few years later, he began designing homes in Los Angeles and is now considered one of the leading pioneers of the early modern architectural movement. His work is characterized by clean lines, high ceilings, rounded archways, and natural use of light. His medium of choice: concrete.

Unfortunately, very few Gill homes still exist in L.A., so I was thrilled when the Southern California chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians offered an Irving Gill bus tour today. Tim and I bought tickets immediately.

Our first stop was the Horatio West Court, built in Santa Monica in 1919. Located on Hollister just a block from the beach, the courtyard features four small two-story homes, rescued from dilapidation in the 1970s and lovingly restored to their current glory. We weren't allowed to take photos inside, but the exteriors clearly declare Irving Gill's unique style. Tim and I were ready to move in right then and there.

Street view of the court

Plenty of windows and natural light in the second story

Windows detail

 Wonderful old garage doors

Front door detail
We next traveled to Santa Fe Springs, where we toured the Clarke estate, an 8000-square-foot mansion built in 1921 amidst 60 acres of orange groves. The enormous house was eventually deeded to the city of Santa Fe Springs and is now used as an event venue. Though the red balconies and doors are not original to Gill's design, they are nonetheless striking against clean, white concrete walls.

Clarke mansion, entrance view

Balcony, interior courtyard

Courtyard door, looking out

Rearview of the house

Side door and flowers

Front door and carport

Tim checking out Gill's handiwork
Our last stop was the 1800-square-foot, single-story White/Morgan residence, erected near Melrose and Vine in the early 1920s. We had visited the home 10 years ago. But, boy, what a difference a decade makes! The house has been completely restored and is magnificent. The concrete walls not only repel the heat, they also muffle outside noise even though the house is located mere feet from one of Hollywood's busiest intersections. I'm in love with Gill all over again . . .

Unassuming front door, off an enclosed driveway

 The living room



Dining room

Backyard patio

Guest house entrance

Enclosed driveway

Driveway door detail

Bathroom mirror selfie

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