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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars suberb book, September 6, 2004
This review is from: Craig Ellwood: In the Spirit of the Time (Hardcover)
I wish to admit that I'm not an architect or designer, nor do I work in any field related to them. Having said that, I found Mr. Perez Gomez's book on Craig Ellwood to be the kind of architecture book that I'm always looking for, but can rarely find. It explains in great detail (at least for a non professional) the structural elements of the buildings presented. The text is so much more rewarding than most books in this genre because he actually explains at lenght what makes these buildings special, how they're put together and what their place is in the chronology and development of Craig Ellwood's career. I'm a great fan of architecture books about this era and after reading this book, I finally have the feeling that I have been educated beyond a few pat statements from a well intentioned tour guide, which is the usual feeling I have after most books of this type. In addition, the wealth of photographs comtemporary to the construction of the buildings and the incredible number of color present day images where aplicable make it one of a kind in my experience. I wish to take nothing away from all the rest who are writing these sorts of books, but to give big compliments, reccomendations and thanks for this one.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars publishers synopsis, October 29, 2007
reviews "MiraDolce" (Imperial Beach, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Craig Ellwood: In the Spirit of the Time (Hardcover)
All but forgotten today, Craig Ellwood was one of the finest California architects of the postwar era. By the time he was thirty he had already contributed three of the seminal Case Study Houses and received the São Paulo Award for his Courtyard Apartments.

Subsequently influenced by Mies, he went on to design a lengthy series of stark minimalist structures, peaking with the Pasadena Art Center, a masterpiece among architecture of a Miesian persuasion. With the support of John Entenza, editor of the influential magazine Arts & Architecture, he was, until the late 1960s, widely considered as one of the most innovative American architects of the period.

Ellwood also had his shadow side. His idiosyncrasies included an extreme version of the dependence architects have on both their collaborators and the public perception of their work. This book discusses these collaborations in detail. Contrary to accepted wisdom, Ellwood?s dependence on outside talent was the main strength of his office. Because it grew out of the Ellwood-coordinated efforts of a number of different designers, the architecture of Craig Ellwood & Associates achieved a resonance with its time that is the source of its lasting interest.

This book documents all the Ellwood buildings that remain on the records, a total of some ninety structures. Its 600 illustrations include comprehensive archival photography (including Ellwood?s own pictures and others by Julius Shulman), original drawings, and -for those buildings that remain in good condition- recent images. Due to the loss of most of the original drawings, 80 floor plans have been redrawn for this publication, making this book as close a record of Ellwood?s complete works as is possible today.

Alfonso Pérez-Méndez has been a professor at the University of Florida since 1996, and a practicing architect since 1979. His roots in professional practice ground his writings in a disciplinary understanding of the architectural profession. Recent publications include 2G: Craig Ellwood 15 Houses, a monograph on Craig Ellwood?s residential architecture; Traveling to Santiago, a collaboration about Álvaro Siza?s recent work in Spain; and Glass Garden, an essay on Dan Graham?s work.

Alfonso Pérez-Méndez

Aside from his minor cult status, Craig Ellwood remains a largely forgotten figure. Only people interested in postwar Los Angeles architecture and a reduced number of designers, including some British and Australian architects of the "high-tech" persuasion, study him today. In stark contrast, the fact that from 1955 to 1965 Ellwood prided himself on being the most published American architect working west of Chicago is a clear remainder of both his historical importance and the vagaries of taste.

On the other hand, there has been in the last ten years an intense scholarly and popular interest in looking back at postwar American architecture, especially that of southern California. This interest ?catalyzed in 1989 by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art exhibition on the Case Study Houses, one of the quintessential post-World War II housing experiments? has produced monographs on several of the major architects of postwar Los Angeles. Recent books on Pierre Koenig and Ralph Rapson, and upcoming books on Raphael Soriano and A. Quincy Jones, for example, present key figures of the Case Study Program. They join monographs on other Los Angeles architects of the era such as John Lautner or Charles and Ray Eames, who perhaps are now at their peak in terms of popular recognition.

Despite his important role in the Case Study Houses ?Ellwood was perhaps the architect most in tune with Arts & Architecture?s point of view? the only comprehensive source to approach Ellwood?s long career has for decades been a 1968 monograph by Esther McCoy. The reasons for this three-decade period of lack of attention include Ellwood?s early and abrupt retirement from architecture and the dispersion and loss of many of his drawings and papers. More importantly, perhaps, Ellwood?s cultivation of the image of a talented designer that, shored up by the design skills of his associates, was not fully sustained by all the facts, long made him a difficult figure to study.

The idiosyncrasies of Ellwood?s career include extreme versions of the dependence that architects have on public perception, and make him an interesting case study. These situations deserve attention and they will be covered here. Essentially, however, this book will concentrate on the work itself. Craig Ellwood?s office produced a coherent set of extraordinary buildings that, independently of the circumstances of their design, deserve to be looked at again from an historical perspective.

Regarding the conceptual sources for Ellwood?s production, his collaborators now appear to have been important contributors. The nature of these collaborations will be discussed here in detail. Contrary to traditional narratives that defend the role of the individual in the creative process, Elwood?s dependence on outside talent ?and his skill in discovering, encouraging, and controlling his designers? became the main strength of his office. Precisely in resulting from the Ellwood-coordinated efforts of a number of different designers, the architecture of Craig Ellwood & Associates achieved a resonance with its era that is the source of its lasting interest.

Regarding the nature of the material included here, this book intends to complement McCoy?s classic monograph, not to substitute for it. Consequently, many of the classic images already published have been avoided. McCoy?s book is irreplaceable, since it is Ellwood?s own attempt to sum up his career in a coherent whole. He sponsored the book, he interested the Italian editor Alfieri in its publication, and he requested Esther McCoy to write it. Incidentally, both Alfieri and McCoy were his personal friends. Ellwood?s control of this monograph was not exceptional: all throughout his career, he carefully crafted his image by providing nearly all the photographs published in the hundreds of articles about his work. Ellwood?s photographs, taken under his supervision right after construction, are how we have known about his work. Most of Ellwood?s buildings have never been photographed or analyzed carefully again.

Ellwood?s original documents are fascinating in that they are as much an ideological product as Ellwood?s buildings themselves. If, however, we agree to restrict ourselves to the author?s point of view, we deny the power of architecture to stand on its own. Our premise has been to balance Ellwood?s view by including a contemporary look at the work. Hence, this book incorporates new photographs, taken by Grant Mudford between February 1998 and June 2001. Grant Mudford?s point of view shares authorship here with the writer of the text.

Ellwood?s career was extensive, including over one hundred documented buildings. Rather than editing the work by selecting acknowledged highlights, we have chosen to present documents for as many as possible of these buildings. With this purpose in mind we have redrawn and included here 91 floor plans, all the ones that we have found from all available sources. The idea was to allow the reader to see the real pace of progression of Ellwood?s career, including buildings that by insisting on earlier solutions show Ellwood?s interest in prototypical solutions. This posed a problem of organization and space. As a result, the book has a dual concept, reflected by the black or white color of its pages. White pages carry the main narrative, including buildings presented at length. Within this main narrative, all other buildings are only mentioned and located in time. Every black page is dedicated to a building not developed in the main text. They accompany the white pages chronologically, and have brief independent narratives that explain the building in question.


- Introduction

- Chapter 1: Craig Ellwood's Formative Context, 1945-1948
- Chapter 2: The Beginning of an Independent Practice, 1948-1950
- Chapter 3: The Construction of an Attitude, 1950-1953
- Chapter 4: A Change oF Pace, Craig Ellwood & Associates, 1953-1955
- Chapter 5: Moving Towards Mies, 1955-1959
- Chapter 6: On Miesian Ground, 1960-1964
- Chapter 7: The Final Years, 1966-1977

- Biographical data and list of works
- Acknowledgments
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Craig Ellwood: In the Spirit of the Time
Craig Ellwood: In the Spirit of the Time by Alfonso Perez-Mendez (Hardcover - February 1, 2003)
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