Architect A. Quincy Jones is finally getting some long overdue attention. A seminal figure in late mid-century modern architecture and planning, Jones practiced in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death in 1979. As part of the Getty sponsored initiative "Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A.," the first major museum retrospective of Jones' work will open later this month at the Hammer Museum. He was an innovative designer of custom residences. Jones' clients included actor Gary Cooper, art collectors Frances and Sidney Brody, and Walter and Lenore Annenberg. He also brought a modern aesthetic to affordable housing, first with his collaborative work on the Mutual Housing Association, a cooperative of more than 160 homes built in the Brentwood hills (now Crestwood), and later through his long relationship with developer Joseph Eichler. Balboa Highlands in Granada Hills is one of the developments where they collaborated.
Jones and his partner Frederick Emmons participated in the Case Study program as the only architects to submit a tract house proposal (Case Study house #24, planned for Chatsworth but never built.) In addition to his residential work, Jones designed churches, university buildings (including UC Irvine), libraries and commercial spaces. His concern for integrating the indoors and the outdoors, his love of experimentation with building materials, and his commitment to efficiency and sustainability were a thread through all his projects. In addition to his practice, Jones taught at the USC School of Architecture from 1951 to 1967, and was the school's dean from 1975 to 1978.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1913, Jones moved to Southern California with his grandparents in 1917. He grew up in Gardena. Early on he became interested in art and nature and during his high school years an after-school job with an architect helped to focus his direction. Following architecture school at the University of Washington he paid his dues working for various firms in Los Angeles. After serving in the Navy during World War ll, he returned to Los Angeles in 1945. He began his practice the year he was discharged from the military, perfectly poised to make the most of the post-war trend toward the less formal lifestyle many clients would adopt. His style became a signature of the postwar era in Southern California, admired by many colleagues in the field.
"There is a direct influence on our work because he was so into the California lifestyle," says Miracle Mile architect Philip DeBolske. "For him the outdoor space was just as important as indoor, and this is something we think about all the time." DeBolske and his partner, Lisa Landworth, were students in the USC architecture program when Jones was the dean. "He practiced 'green' ideas before they were labeled that, with the idea of natural ventilation and natural light," Landworth said.
DeBolske and Landworth still look to Jones as an architecture mentor. They accompanied him to conferences and attended parties at his residence just west of Century City affectionately referred to as The Barn. Students could meet figures in architecture and design such as Charles and Ray Eames and Buckminster Fuller at The Barn, which still stands on Little Santa Monica Boulevard. "We would be in this space that was just so magical," says DeBolske. "I remember the stacks of books everywhere. It was my first exposure to living, eating, and breathing in modern architecture."
A. Quincy Jones: Building for Better Living , May 25-September 8 at the Hammer Museum in Westwood.
Photos all by Jason Schmidt, courtesy of the Hammer Museum. Top: Milton S. Tyre house, Los Angeles; Middle: Fairhaven Tract Eichler Home, Orange; Bottom: St. Michael's and All Angels Episcopal Church, Studio City. Perspective view of St. Michael's exterior by A. Quincy Jones and Frederick Emmons Architects, 1960-62.