Los Angeles classicists converged recently beneath the sturdy beams of the Spanish colonial clubhouse of the Beverly Hills Women’s Club to hear Gamble House Director Ted Bosley talk about the Craftsman architecture of Southern California.
The Gamble House in Pasadena, a National Historic Landmark, is an outstanding example of American Arts and Crafts style architecture. Both the house and furnishings were designed by Charles and Henry Greene in 1908 for David and Mary Gamble of the Procter & Gamble Company.
The AIA awarded Greene and Greene honors in 1952, calling their work a “new and native architecture”. From its roots in the late 19th century British movement, to the mastery of expression Charles and Henry Greene achieved in Southern California classics like the Gamble and Blacker houses, to the evolution of a native California modernism, Ted showed us something new about buildings quite literally in our own backyards. The style, the color pallet, the Japanese influences are familiar. Perhaps we didn’t know the influence of the California rancho, or the clumsy early commissions, or the uniquely American opalescent art glass the Greenes employed that had no equivalent in Europe.
An arts and crafts home I’m currently lighting provided me with the perfect segue from my workday into Ted’s talk. Aside from breathtaking imagery of architectural gems like Seaward, the D.L. James house in Carmel by the Sea – sensitive siting was a Greene strongsuit – one of the most stunning points of the presentation was that craft is not what makes Craftsman architecture inimitable. Good craftsmanship most certainly exists in the world today. Rather it’s the limitations of natural materials artisans can draw on. Most of our 800 year old trees have been harvested, or are now quietly growing strong in protected forestland. With any luck we will not see another bowling lane made of a single redwood trunk, nor will we see the almost endless length of precious wood panel like those the Greenes routinely for many years to come.
So thank you, Ted, for a great night, and 24 years of loving care at the Gamble House. We’ll see you there soon.
More about the Gamble House:
For more talks and programming by the Institute of Classical Architecture Southern California:
Valerie Thomas, Remains Lighting Los Angeles