LAMA’s 10 Most Influential California Architects

April 26, 2011

10.       Paul Williams

One of the most successful architects in LA before WWII, Paul Williams had to learn how to write and draw upside down, as he was often not allowed to sit next to his white clients.  As the first African-American member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1957, Paul Williams is most recognized for developing plans for the Los Angeles International Airport, as well as designing countless homes in Southern California. He was equally adept at creating both traditional and modern designs.

9.       John Lautner

If there ever was a hidden lair built for a Bond villain, it would have been designed by Lautner. His push-button, space-age style lent a particular drama to each interior, and in fact several of his houses were used in movies to convey a sense of power.  Among Frank Lloyd Wright’s most successful apprentices, Lautner excelled at technical engineering, allowing him to innovate and invent radical, new techniques in architecture.

8.       A. Quincy Jones

A. Quincy Jones is most noted for innovative buildings and environmentally conscious urban planning.  Jones partnered with Fredrick E. Emmons to produce thousands of Eichler homes, and together they took advantage of pre-fabricated industrial units of the time to create homes that were both affordable and livable for post-war middle class Americans. Later Jones went on to create large commercial buildings such as Warner Brothers Records building in Burbank, CA and the Herman Miller Factory in Zeeland, Michigan.

7.   Eldon Davis

Davis, who died this week at the age of 94, is most recognized for bringing modernism into peoples’ daily lives.  Davis’ 4,000 buildings make up some of the most unique mid-century architecture on this list. Next time you drive by Norm’s on La Cienega, Pann’s in Westchester, or Johnnie’s on Fairfax think of Davis.  Sadly, many of his works are disappearing.

6.       Craig Ellwood

One of the coolest and most sophisticated architects of the 20th century, wasn’t an architect at all, nor was his name Craig Ellwood. However, his Miesian pavilions, whether residential or commercial, are among the most durable  structures of the 20th century.

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5.       Charles Eames

Eames’ design for his own house and that of his neighbor’s, John Entenza, are two of the most recognizable Case Study Houses. Eames also designed the Herman Miller Showroom on Beverly Boulevard. Although few buildings were completed, there is an interesting correlation between Eames’ design philosophy and his architectural works.

4.       R.M. Schindler

Fellow Austrian émigré of Neutra, Schindler originally worked for Frank Lloyd Wright, but soon after developed his own style of complex geometric masses. His own Kings Road residence is an excellent starting or finishing point for any architectural tour in LA.

3.       Frank Lloyd Wright

The master built several structures in Southern California,  including concrete block houses in the early 1920s, which today are among his most important architectural structures.  However, the lesser known commissions, such as the Sturges house and the office building in the center of Beverly Hills, are great accessible buildings for an afternoon drive by viewing.

2.       Frank O. Gehry

Still more appreciated in Europe than here in Los Angeles, Gehry has continued to innovate throughout his career. In addition to creating buildings that have morphed into tourist attractions, Gehry has been credited with nurturing Computer-Aided Design (CAD).  We believe in 50 years he will be most remembered for ushering in computer-aided design.

1.       Richard Neutra

Neutra’s Viennese secession beginnings were tempered by the warm California sun, and the result was long and low intersecting planes of glass, steal and masonry.  Frank Lloyd Wright called him the only modern architect working in America.  We are listing Neutra as the most influential California architect because he was able to find the essence of the post-and-beam style far before it became popular. We believe that amongst this list of architects, Neutra’s pioneering style has influenced the greatest number of young architects over the past 70 years and continues to be the most influential today.

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