Much of the work of A. Quincy Jones, FAIA, from the 1960s has been in the design of buildings for university campuses and of office buildings. But he first gained recognition in residential work in the postwar era when the need for housing was acute. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1913, Jones was a professor of architecture at the University of Southern California from 1951-67.
While in private practice in Los Angeles from 1937, his houses set standards of excellence that affected all house design of the postwar period, especially the tract house, to which he was one of the few to give architectural consideration. A characteristic of these small houses was the simplified structural system which allowed for spatial diversity, in contrast to the usual static box. Certain characteristics of Jones’ large-scale work grew out of his solutions for residences, particularly in siting and in the development of flexible structural systems.
Speaking of tract housing, Jones was a key architect designing homes with Joseph Eichler, probably the most notable and innovative developer of mid-century homes throughout that era. Their partnership began shortly after Eichler was awarded ‘Subdivision of the Year’ by the magazine Architectural Forum in December 1950. That very same issue featured a ‘Builders House of the Year’ designed by A. Quincy Jones. Eichler contacted Jones and invited him to tour a Palo Alto development he had just completed. Eichler had proposed to Jones that the Builder of the Year team with the Architect of the Year. A handshake cemented a working relationship, which lasted until Eichler’s death in 1974.
The Warner Brothers studio and office complex in Burbank contains a number of interesting Late Modern buildings, including office buildings designed by Gibbs & Gibbs and the Luckman Partnership along with Jones.
The company’s first foray into Modern design, however, is arguably its most successful: the Warner Bros. Records Building on Riverside Drive (seen here at right). Warner Bros. opened its music division in 1958, and by the 1970s it needed new office space that would offer a welcoming, relaxed environment to artists as well as executives. It hired prolific Southern California architect A. Quincy Jones to design the new building. Jones was best known for his innovative tract housing that bridged the gap between custom and developer designs, integrating buildings and landscapes into logical yet graceful homes accessible to middle-class buyers.
His residential design experience influenced the plan for the 1975 Warner Bros. Records office, resulting in a low, horizontal building fully integrated into a garden landscape that included large interior spaces of greenery (office seen here at left) and water onto which offices opened with sliding glass doors. While the building actually has three stories, the lowest is below grade, allowing the design to nestle into the ground. The property’s exterior is clad in vertical redwood siding, lending an organic warmth to severe lines like the dramatically tilted redwood and glass box at the main entrance. Jones’ transcendent melding of domestic and commercial idioms in the Warner Bros. Records Building proves that Late Modern corporate offices can be warm, elegant, and even neighborly.
At right is another shot of Peter’s office
where my lovely wife Laura is making herself at home.