The Architect

Irving Gill (1870-1936), now widely considered as the first and preeminent architect of the Modernist era, was commissioned by Ellen Browning Scripps to design and build La Jolla Woman’s Club in 1913-1914.  It is considered by many to be Gill’s architectural masterpiece.  As one of the most influential architects of the late nineteenth  to early twentieth century, Gill was said to be far advanced for his time.  He built for the present in new materials with new methods, evolved through trial and error.  He led the way in the development and evolution of concrete and naturalness which he used in his coordination of house and garden by pergolas, courts, patio and porches.  He understood shadows and shadings and they enhanced his walls.  His columns were strong and modest with small bands and flat caps.  Gill used the innovative technique of tilt-slab construction, pouring loads of concrete onto a huge table tilted 15 degrees, hollow tiles on a table (forms for walls) divided by four inch vertical steel bars as reinforcement and metal frames for doors and windows integrated into forms.  Gill’s traditional arches frame the wrap-around porch (veranda) and a vine-covered pergola extends to the street. Walls were finished flush with the casing – wall joins the flooring slightly rounded. He used no molding for pictures, no baseboard paneling or wainscoting to catch and hold the dust. The entry doors are of single slabs of hand polished mahogany swung on invisible hinges.  The roof opening (for ventilation) in the lounges was also a favorite device and he planned exquisite gardens around the building. To recognize its historical significance, the building was designated as Historic Site No. 79, City of San Diego Register on March 2, 1973, and was placed on the National Register of Historical Places on November 5, 1974.  On February 29, 1975, by Ordinance No. 11493 a historic zone was created, allowing the club to enter into a twenty year contract with San Diego , providing for a tax benefit.  The Historic American Building Survey measured the building in 1971 and these drawings are filed in the Library of Congress.