PRINT March 1964


Architects 5 at Roberts Art Gallery, Santa Monica

ARCHITECTS 5, ANOTHER IN THE notable series of exhibits at Santa Monica High School’s Roberts Art Gallery, was a relief from the usual oversized postcard variety of architectural exhibits. Models, perspectives, plans, before-and-after photographs as well as final presentation photographs enabled the onlooker to study the buildings and the problems involved in depth. Work was shown not only for wealthy sensitive clients with beautifully wooded lots on gentle slopes in suburban Elysiums, but for tract and apartment builders, fund limited congregations, and middle of the block home owners as well.

The two pieces of virtuosity were the Keown Ranch Scheme Number 2 by Arthur Stephens and the well-known National Apartment House by Raymond Kappe, whose method in all his work of clearly but freely delineating both interior and exterior areas by simple planes of unmolested materials adorned with interpenetrating landscaping demonstrates the possibility of civic architectural health even with todays’ economic stresses, were the conscience of the developer not so elusive. Mr. Stephens’ Keown Ranch is the sort of ideal project that is euphorically removed from the problems of today’s edificial chaos, but the harmonious organization of a variety of special functions and dimensions by an unregimented but consistent handling of roofs, which change direction and plane according to the needs and comforts of the plan below could well be heeded by his colleague, John Sjoberg, who demonstrated not only in the doll houses at Sunset Mesa but just as surely in his overdeveloped eyelid awnings for an office (or an embassy, if you wish) a complete submission to the design method of applying stylish shapes to innocuously receptive plans. His designs did not have the logical development from site through plan to structure and enclosure which was so evident in Mr. Kappe’s work, although one well-executed pastel of a two-story apartment house showed such fine handling of casework in relationship to plaster walls within the enforced economic idiom of R-3 zoning that it was difficult to believe it was drawn by the same hand.

The detailing of Dennis Wehmueller’s churches had little relationship to the needs of weather protection and their bouffant roofs seemed upheld not by an orderly distribution of stresses but by the misused power of modern engineering, whose inherent subtleties and worthy disciplines most architects including Mr. Wehmueller are, sadly, too jealous to embrace. But his medical clinic showed a tender simplicity in its tiled fascias hovering over delicately handled block walls and a quiet mystery in its entrances of the kind which could convert the mood of his hollow ziggurats to a spirituality which can never be found in the illogical acrobatics which seem to be today’s presumptuous concept of God’s dwelling needs.

The work shown of John Geiger was more limited in scope than the other four and hence more difficult to judge, but the Applin residence, which appears from its compact forms to be a town house although the rendering shows it in the middle of an open field, has the beauty of a well-wrapped parcel of pertinent commodities. The renderings done for him and for Wehmueller and Stephens by Stephens are satisfying insofar as they are architectural, careful line work with attention to detail as well as mass, but ruined by checkered skies, scribbled vegetation and triangular human beings. The show was worthy of discussion.

Frederic P. Lyman


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