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PRESIDENT'S LETTER

 

It has been 19 years since SAH/SCC held “Irving Gill: Fundamental Truths,” a day-long tour in San Diego. How time has flown! In the tour brochure for that event, longtime SAH/SCC Board Member John Berley observed, “history has left Gill in a place of relative obscurity.” I’m glad that condition has been somewhat mitigated over time and am equally as glad to know that the upcoming exhibition “Irving Gill: Simplicity and Reform” at the University of California, Santa Barbara, will contribute significantly to the appreciation of the architect as not only one of Southern California’s greatest talents, but also as a progenitor of modernism.

It was the great architectural historian Esther McCoy who observed in Five California Architects (Reinhold Publishing Corporation, 1960) that Gill’s anti-ornament houses predated the Steiner Residence (1910) by Adolph Loos in Vienna by two years.

Yet, curating a tour of Gill’s work in Los Angeles has been very difficult. Unlike in San Diego, most of Gill’s work here has been demolished or remodeled beyond recognition. Of course, the greatest (worst?) example of this was the destruction of the Dodge House (1916) during the 1970s, which was a seminal event in fueling the preservation movement for modern architecture. Long before modernism was “hot,” advocates for the Dodge House framed the fight as potentially losing a milestone of the modern movement.

The mourning reached far and wide. In an article in The New York Times titled “Blue Monday in Los Angeles,” Ada Louise Huxtable offered that the demise of the Dodge House was not just an example of “how we throw our national heritage away,”but also a means of explaining “the crisis of confidence between people and government, and people and real estate.” She noted, “After Saturday, early Monday is the most popular time for landmark demolition. It has the obvious virtue of catching people napping, while avoiding overtime rates.”

SAH/SCC believes that education is a fundamental truth. People who know about and understand architecture will be less likely to discard it. Join us for this important series of Irving Gill events as we celebrate the work of this remarkable talent.

Sian Winship


 
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