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
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.