Sunday, September 7, 2014
Architects find our way
William Morrish, professor at Parsons The New School for Design, told me that, while in La Jolla at the American Institute of Architects' Board Meeting, I should see Rudolph Schindler's Pueblo Ribera. The AIA was taking us to see The Salk Institute, Louis Kahn's masterpiece and surely a wonderful place to do science. Schindler's project was down the way, along the beach. Not a "Cathedral of Our Culture," as apparently Robert Redford, himself a sufferer from polio, has dubbed Salk's Institute, but some modest houses, close to the rocks and surf. I needed a ride and asked Julia Donoho AIA, an avid architectural historian and critic, if she might like to go. Carl Elefante FAIA, whose practice focuses on historic preservation, joined us. I like traveling with architects, as they know how to pack cars, find their way, get to the best restaurants, and interpret buildings. As we drove up to Gravilla Street, I was searching for the number on the left. Julia, looking to the right, said, "I see architecture." Schindler's buildings were definitive and distinct. Its pleasant neighbors were cast in the shade by its cool design. Carl explained that Schindler, working in the 1920s, had a great influence on the emergence of American modernism. When other modernists arrived from Europe, Schindler was already busy showing the way, working with new forms and new materials. His use of teak, concrete and open spaces overlooking the ocean foreshadow the essence of Salk, although Salk is meant as a grand statement, and Schindler's Pueblo Ribera was an inexpensive set of beach shacks. But both mean to be rich in space for living and in celebrating the ocean.