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J.R. Davidson: California Modernist
Lecture/Panel Discussion, Mann House
Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Please join the Society of Architectural Historians/Southern California Chapter and the Thomas Mann House for a very special evening exploring the work of Case Study House architect J.R. Davidson (1889-1977) in the Thomas Mann Residence (J.R. Davidson, 1941). Mann (1875-1955) was a German novelist, social critic, philanthropist, and essayist. Mann and his family were driven from Nazi Germany during the early 1930s, settling in Los Angeles in 1942.

The Thomas Mann House will be the perfect setting in which to explore the émigré stories of both Davidson and Mann. In 1940, Davidson got in touch with author Thomas Mann. Mann spent the previous years of his exile in Princeton but decided to move to Los Angeles with his family. The Manns bought a property in Pacific Palisades and hired J.R. Davidson to design a house intended to be aligned with the family’s lifestyle and daily routines.

Davidson’s previous houses were built in an international style, however, the house on San Remo Drive resembles a moderate modernist design. The interior embodied German bourgeoise culture in contrast to the modern white appearance of the house. Journalist Heinrich Wefing noted, “The outside form suggests an adjustment to the new Californian world, while on the inside, you see the attempt to reconstruct, even if only partially, what was lost.”

The event begins with a presentation by Lilian Pfaff, Davidson scholar, author and curator of the current exhibit at University of California, Santa Barbara “J.R. Davidson: A European Contribution to California Modernism.” She will be joined by panelists Christopher Long, Ph.D. the Martin S. Kermacy Centennial Professorship in Architecture at the University of Texas and Monica Penick, Ph.D. and Associate Professor of Design a the University of Texas. The panel will be moderated by Kenneth Briesch, Ph.D. Associate Professor at the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California.

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