'A Very Gentle Sternness': Ain in the '30s
SAH/SCC Tour & Talk, Los Angeles
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Former SAH/SCC President Tony Denzer will be back in Los Angeles for a special tour of Gregory Ain's residence for A. O. Beckman and two of the apartments in the Dunsmuir Flats project. Denzer, now professor of architecture at University of Wyoming, and author of Gregory Ain: The Modern Home as Social Commentary (Rizzoli, 2008), will speak on Ain's inspirations, vision, and projects. Light refreshments and a book signing will follow the presentation at the Beckman house. A tour at Dunsmuir Flats will wrap up the afternoon.
Gregory Ain (1908-88) left Richard Neutra's office in 1935 and designed several important structures as a young man. With strong influences from Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, and Frank Lloyd Wright, he was interested in "cubist" techniques and mathematical "games" to produce three-dimensional forms. Asymmetry, diagonal relationships, overlapping and interlocking elements, and spiral movement mark his finished works. Ain's considerable contribution to Southern California modernism might be summed up by his own statement that he had found "a house could be quite playful, with a kind of starkness, a very gentle sternness, not at all like the Bauhaus sternness."
The Beckman House (1938), designed for pharmacist A.O. Beckman, was more lavish than Ain's other pre-war houses at 2,100 square feet (plus a two-car garage). At $9,250, it was one of his few residences to include a maid's quarters. One story in front and two stories in back, the Beckman house reveals the influence of Schindler. It features a pinwheel-shaped plan to define multiple courtyards, including a "children's garden." The unusual saw-tooth plan of the four-unit Dunsmuir Flats (1937), for client "Shy" Kaplan, gives each apartment a private garden and private entrance. Virtually every room in the complex receives daylight from three sides. Ain, himself, said of the Dunsmuir Flats, "I tell you in all modesty I think the plan of that was superb."
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