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Dual Cocktail Party Celebrates San Diego Architectural Gems

(Left to right) Beth & Zeke Montes, Julie Kolb, Allen Hazard. Photo by Sandé Lollis


The buzz about Saturday night's dual home tour and cocktail party grew throughout the day. As people stopped by to pick up reserved tickets, they expressed great anticipation about the wonderful opportunity to mix and mingle in two important examples of modern architecture in San Diego: the Craig Ellwood designed Bobertz residence, 1954, and the Richard Neutra designed Bond residence, 1960. As afternoon turned to evening, guests made their way from the exhibition hall to the party.

Tucked in a neighborhood of ranch style homes near the San Diego State Campus, the Craig Ellwood home stood out as distinctly as its owner, Keith York, had described the home upon first seeing it. With its stark windowless walls facing the street, the home contrasted sharply with the more common tract homes surrounding it.

The towering front door stood open, light pouring outward beckoning guests to enter and explore this home that has been rescued by its current owner. As many learned, Mr. York has spent the last three years researching and restoring this home to its original design, reconfiguring rooms and reconstructing the kitchen. With interior doors that stretch upward to the 9-foot douglas fir clad ceilings, the compactly designed rooms have an expansive feel. Open for all to explore, the home provided a few surprises and opportunities to view the ongoing restoration process. Entering a bedroom tucked off the entry hall, guests were surprised to find an entire wall missing, the room open on one side to a courtyard and the starry skies above.

As guests toured the home and a waiter passed hors d'oeuvres, they mingled with each other, discussing modern architecture, the process of restoration, the lectures they had attended earlier in the day, and the offerings found at the San Diego Modernism Show and Sale. Many took advantage of the temperate evening to gather outdoors on the back patio, whose view spread out above the canyons. With the trolley bell sounding outside every half-hour, party-goers streamed in and out. Those bound for the Neutra house boarded the trolley laughing and talking.

After guests were seated, the trolley took off promptly, efficiently and easily transporting the cheerful party-goers between residences. Located in a gated community toward the end of a winding road, the Neutra house sits on the edge of a hill overlooking the lights of Mission Valley in the neighborhood of Alvarado Estates. As the trolley approached the gate with each trip, a dedicated SOHO member stood ready to open the gates.

Although the Neutra home has not been the victim of extensive alteration, current homeowner Susan Camiel spent the last two years restoring the woodwork throughout the house and working with design consultants to revitalize this home. Ms. Camiel has described herself as the caretaker of San Diego's only remaining Richard Neutra designed residence. The scale and design of this home create a sense of harmony between the inner dwelling spaces and the natural world outside.

Adding to the character and history of the home is the addition of a small guesthouse at the rear of the property. This home was designed by Dion Neutra, son of Richard Neutra, in the style of the main living structure.

After arriving at the Neutra residence, guests were drawn into the house by the buzz of conversation and activity emanating from within. As the music of a guitar player drifted throughout the house and a fire danced in the fireplace, guests moved through the house, at the rear of which stretched a wall of glass blending indoor and outdoor spaces. The cool blue glow of the pool beckoned them outside to admire the view.

People gathered around the pool, along the patio, and throughout the house carried on animated conversations. The newly arrived made their way through the house, exploring the spaces, alighting on groups of party-goers, and joining in the conversations. The ever-changing assembly of guests included a dynamic mix of the Weekend's Modern Masters, guests from some of San Diego's premiere art galleries and museums including the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla, the San Diego Museum of Art, and the San Diego Historical Society, as well as many San Diegans eager to enter and explore these prime examples of modern architecture. With the departure of the last trolley at 9:00, guests who had parked nearby lingered, deep in conversation, savoring the last moments of this unique event.

The dual cocktail party and home tour proved to be a fabulous gathering of individuals passionate about modern architecture and its preservation. SOHO would like to thank homeowners Susan Camiel and Keith York for generously sharing their homes for this special evening. We appreciate the time and the effort that they each put into preparing these homes for this event.

2003 - Volume 34, Issue 4

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