Ralph Johnson House
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Architect Harwell Hamilton Harris
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Location Los Angeles, California   map
Date 1949 to 1951   timeline
Building Type house
 Construction System wood frame
Climate warm, dry
Context suburban
Style Modern
Notes Pinwheel plan, trellised eaves. Shows Craftsman influences.




Lower Plan Drawing

Upper Plan Drawing

Contributions appreciated

Discussion Ralph Johnson House Commentary

“On the outside of the house Harris made an event out of the splices in the pergola fascias. Believing that what connot be concealed should be turned into a feature, he multiplied the number of splices and inserted a twelve-by- twelve-by-four-inch block in each. Highly visible and regualrly spaced as they are, they become a part of the rhythmic pattern of the house. The two-story arrangement, which rises above a garage facing the street, is covered with boards and battens. Entrance comes at the far side of either of two bridges that connect the house to a staircase leading upward alongside a stream. Because ‘everything,’ Harris said, ‘was to take your mind off the long path to the door,’ he created not a continuous path but rather a ‘dotted line’ leading to the entrance. The lower bridge connects to the room of the Johnson’s son and his private balcony; the upper leads into the public area of the house and beyond to the living room and its floor-to-ceiling window. Above the window, the skeletal framework of the roof continues outward in the form of open rafters to frame an image of the Johnson house that evokes the east wing façade of Greene and Greene’s Blacker house in Pasadena.”

— from Lisa Germany. Harwell Hamilton Harris. p113-115.

The Creator's Words

“Within an open grassy space, strongly silhouetted against the circle of dark trees, lay a long, low building, its creamy walls golden in the afternoon sunlight. Its low wings were extended and paralled by high garden walls. In the foreground was a pool as sharply rectilinear as the building; joining the building to the pool was a large plant box. Building, pool and plant box were one material. Above the plant box was a broad opening; within the opening was a pair of square vertical mullions covered with intricate square ornament in low relief. Above the line of the opening the walls broke back, and on the ledge thus created the square sharp ornament appeared again, this time in bigger scale and in high relief. Like a wreath, the ornament moved lightly across the broad brow of the building, continuing in quiet unbroken rhythm from one wall to the next and from one wing to the next. ”

— Harwell Hamilton Harris, on visiting Wright’s Hollyhock House. from Lisa Germany. Harwell Hamilton Harris. p17-18.

“The variety in nature is something that is very much a part of me and something I like to take into account as far as possible in any building that I do…because we thought of nature as there first, and, although there was great development, the development for the most part hadn’t been at the expense of the environment. We were building and doing purely man-made and artificial things within the natural setting, but it didn’t seem to be destroying the setting as a whole in any way. It was a gentle nature to begin with, that one could expose himself to [and] didn’t have to protect himself from. And it wasn’t a nature that had to be dominated. We didn’t feel that we had to tame it. It was something that didn’t require taming. It was simply something to accommodate oneself to and develop in what he built as a means of making more complete and general living possible.”

— Harwell Hamilton Harris, from Lisa Germany. Harwell Hamilton Harris. p11.

Sources on Ralph Johnson House

Lisa Germany. Harwell Hamilton Harris. Austin TX: University of Texas Press, 1991. ISBN 0-292-73043-8. LC 90-44616. NA737.H295G4 1991. lower level plan, p112. upper level plan, p112. discussion p11, 113-115.

Leland M. Roth. A Concise History of American Architecture. New York: Harper and Row, 1979. ISBN 0-06-430086-2. LC 78-2169. NA705.R67 1979. discussion, p314 to 315. exterior photo through trees, f269, p314.  Find books about Ralph Johnson House


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