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Message from the Editor
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At Home in the 20th Century
Cory Buckner, Mutual Housing Site Office
Cory Buckner is an architect and owner of the Mutual Housing Site Office, one of the homes in the famous Crestwood Hills development. Her house, designed in 1949 by architects A. Quincy Jones and Whitney R. Smith and structural engineer Edgardo Contini, was the first building in the Mutual Housing Association (MHA) development and was used as the site office during the construction phase. After restoring the house, she campaigned for the preservation of the remaining MHA houses, and in 2002 was awarded the Los Angeles Preservation Award for this work. Cory’s house, the former Mutual Housing Site Office,will be toured at the Iconic Houses Conference in February 2016. She is the author of A. Quincy Jones published in 2002 and Crestwood Hills: The Chronicle of a Modernist Utopia published in 2015.
Tell us about your own relationship with significant houses
I own and have restored the Mutual Housing Site Office. This is one of three MHA houses I have owned and restored in the Crestwood Hills area of Brentwood. I have been fortunate in having been commissioned to work on a dozen of the original houses of the MHA cooperative housing effort, as well as many others in Crestwood Hills and the Los Angeles area.
With the bravado characteristic of the immediate post-war period, the building springs from a concrete masonry abutment to cantilever on steel beams over the wooded canyon. The wood frames provide a firm rhythm, and the shallow-pitched roof emphasises the horizontality of the structure. The building was originally finished with unadorned materials in their natural state: concrete block, redwood siding, exposed Douglas Fir plywood, and tongued and grooved ceiling planks. The dramatically angled building section, with brise-soleil, light shelf and clerestory reminiscent of Taliesin West and Wright’s Hillside House, shows the influence of the architects’ colleagues and collaborators on the project.
The Mutual Housing Association was the only successful large-scale cooperative housing development in California in the post-war years. Planned on 800 acres at the edge of the Santa Monica Mountains, MHA - or Crestwood Hills as it is now known - is one of the few fully realised Modernist projects in the state.
Do you have a favourite house?
Maison La Roche in Paris by Le Corbusier has always intrigued me with its gentle curving wall juxtaposed to a very orthogonal plan. Designed in 1923, Maison La Roche was way before it’s time with a play of vertical and horizontal space. Most rooms open to a three story open space, which provides light and interest from every floor. Despite the openness there is an intimacy within this modern jewel.
What is the biggest challenge facing the Mutual Housing Site Office at this moment?
My biggest challenge is maintaining a structure that is now almost 70 years old. The ravages of time have resulted in cracks in the masonry, which seem impossible to fix.
What do you expect from the upcoming Iconic Houses conference at the Getty Center in Los Angeles?
I am looking forward to hearing Toshiko Mori’s talk on restoring three architecturally significant houses, and I always enjoy catching up with Wim de Wit; he is greatly missed in Los Angeles. Any discussion about maintaining the materials used in any of the historic houses will be of great interest to me.
Which other 20st-century house in California has the potential of becoming a future Iconic House and why?
The Schneidman House, designed by the same design team as the MHA Site Office, is beautifully restored and is one of the more dynamic MHA house designs. Dedicated and enthusiastic owners have meticulously restored the house under my supervision. It is designed for a hillside lot with spectacular views, and it represents the dynamic architecture and site sensitivity which the architects wished to convey in their designs.
Cory Buckner recommends taking a look at a video from the Getty Conservation Institute as a warm up for the conference. "From the Field: Conserving Southern California's Modern Architecture” is showcase of six recent projects in Pecha Kucha format by Los Angeles-area practitioners, each highlighting a different preservation challenge and building type, and presented by the practitioners themselves. Cory’s talk about the restoration of the Schneidman House starts at 29:48.
MHA Site Office by day, A. Quincy Jones, Crestwood Hills Los Angeles, 1951
MHA Site Office by night, A. Quincy Jones, Crestwood Hills Los Angeles, 1951
Maison La Roche, Le Corbusier, Paris, 1923
Schneidman House, A. Quincy Jones, Crestwood Hills Los Angeles, 1950
Publication date 24 December 2015