Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Edward H. Fickett, 1954 "800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building" Now Los Angeles HCM No.1047

"800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building", architect Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A, 1954 - HCM 1047
The Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A. 1954 design 800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building is now officially Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) No. 1047.  I have been working on this nomination for 8 months, and thrilled to have Fickett's building noted by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and the Office of Historic ResourcesHCM No. 1047 received approval by City Council on August 12, 2014.
Minimal use of applied ornament, creating a streamline and industrial appearance.
I always am grateful for my close friendship with Joycie Fickett, the widow of the famed architect.  A few years ago, she brought to my attention a beautiful design her late-husband created and suggested I drive over there at some point to check it out, as she knew I would appreciate the mid-century design of 800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building. I fell in love upon first sight...
Two-story curvilinear wall made of troweled joint brick on the west-facing façade.
The building is an exceptional example of the Mid-Century Modern school of architecture. The 9-unit office building was commissioned by L.H.L. Corporation in 1953 and completed in 1954. The building meets two of the criteria for the designation as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. Specifically, the building:
  • is a notable work of a master builder, designer or architect whose individual genius influenced their age; and
  • embodies the distinguishing characteristics of an architectural type specimen, inherently valuable for a study of a period style or method of construction.
Architect / Builder plaque
“I remember getting out of my car on Robertson having seen this sinuous brick wall slotted into a sweep of delicate glass, wondering ‘who designed this building?’ ... and was lucky to spot the plaque indicating it was one of Ed’s!” - architect, Stephen H. Kanner, F.A.I.A
Fickett won the Los Angeles Business Council Urban Beautification Award for Low-Rise Commercial Building for 800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building in 1955.  Fickett worked with contractor, Barnett B. Poles to create the building.
Mechanical Brise-Soleil on the upper and lower windows on the west façade.
2-Story "Peek-a-Boo" Window Detail
As mentioned earlier, 800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building is a fine example of the Mid-Century Modern style of architecture. Mid-century modern architecture was adopted in America in the mid-1940s and lasted through the late 1960s. It was a trend in American modern architecture and industrial design, which was sleek and sexy with a strong influence from the earlier coined movement known as the International Style. Architects incorporated rhythm, balance and scale within their themes for design, which sought the clarity of form and geometry in design.
Original Illustration - Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A. - Courtesy of USC Archives.
As with the earlier International Style, which was stark and void of ornamentation, the Mid-Century Modern movement was a manifestation of the future, with no thoughts of the past. It was an optimistic time, when the sky was the limit with the usage of new technologies and building materials. It was a period that embraced the “new.” People wanted buildings that not only represented people’s social and community life and provide more than functional fulfillment.  Mid-Century Modern architecture allowed for thoughts and aspirations for the future.
Two-story plate glass window wall on the north-facing entry.
Fickett’s curved entry wall at 800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building is as if to greet the public with open arms. The exterior elevations adhere to the minimalist style of simplification and the elimination of ornament true to the Mid-Century Modern style of architecture. The clean lines and simple patterns suggest the coming of a new age in architecture. A moveable Brise-Soleil on the upper and lower windows on the west façade exemplify the effects from the mechanical industrial age, while providing protection from the Southern California environment and the influx of natural light.
Building entry and two-story Lobby/Atrium
The main entry off Gregory Way features a 2-story plate glass wall.  There are several styles of fenestration, which the building features that exemplify the Mid-Century Modern style architecture and Fickett’s vernacular, such as, a skylight, a "Peek-a-Boo" window, walls of glass, jalousie windows, plate glass, fixed glass and sliding glass doors and windows.
Steel mullions on the north-facing plate glass window walls.
 The two-story wall of glass on the north façade is flush with the roof line and features steel mullions that extend above the roof line.  Glass walls meet at a 90 ̊ angle at the northeast corner of the building. The west and north brick walls have a parapet extending above the roof line. Deep overhanging eaves on the east and south façades cantilever and provide shade with the underside having stucco application.
The orientation of the building provides optimal protection from solar gain while providing maximum efficiency in natural light. Fickett takes advantage of the northern exposure and utilizes a two-story glass wall on the northern façade, allowing natural light to filtrate the lobby/atrium and main hallway. The west façade has minimal windows to help reduce solar gain with mechanical Brise-Soleil over the upper and lower fenestration. The south façade features walls of sliding glass doors which lead to individual enclosed suite patios on the 1st-story and strip fenestration on the 2nd-story above, allowing for maximum solar gain to provide ample natural light.
An indoor-outdoor planter passes through plate glass.
Custom iron railing and open string staircase by Fickett
With this low-rise office building, we see Fickett’s ability to seamlessly bring the outdoors in through his use of glass and architectural features such as extending the exterior brick wall of the Facilities area, through glass slotted into the brick, and into the lobby/atrium area. The curvilinear wall also features a two-story “peek- a-boo” glass window, to “tickle the imagination of what may lie within” as it slots seamlessly into the brick creating an undisturbed line allowing for as much outdoors to envelop the interior space. Nestled under the custom iron railing and open string staircase, his indoor planter in the lobby/atrium extends seamlessly through glass from the exterior landscape providing a fluid invitation in “bringing the outdoors-in”, which was a theme in his work. 
Beveled cement stairs with colored pigment (Now painted)
Custom open-string stairway with steel hand railings and angled balusters.
There is a custom designed open-string staircase abutting the curvilinear brick wall at its half-landing in the two-story lobby/atrium. The staircase features beveled concrete risers that extend over the indoor planter and up to the 2nd-floor cantilevered platform. The risers featured red pigment in the concrete to contrast the greenery of the indoor/outdoor planter. The risers have since been painted red. The open string staircase also features custom handrails and angled balusters made of steel.   
2nd-Story Skylight Above 1st-Story Interior Planter
Natural light was always an important architectural feature for Fickett, as it allowed the outdoors-in.  Plate glass rising from floor-to-ceiling, skylights above emitting natural light over indoor planters, sliding glass walls shifting to allow the outdoors to meld with interiors...  He loved his high ceilings and walls of glass. 
2nd Floor Mezzanine Overlooking Indoor Planter
The interior consists of nine separate office suites featuring floor-to-ceiling, clear and obscure glass paneled walls.  The 1st-floor suites have outdoor patios through sliding walls of glass.
1st-Floor Main Hallway
1st-Floor Main Hallway
With the orientation of the building, Fickett took advantage of the northern light to allow for maximum solar gain through the hallways and into the office suites using floor-to-ceiling plate glass walls.
2nd-Floor Main Hallway
2nd-Floor Main Hallway
The 800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building embodies the distinguishing characteristics of Fickett’s work, and thus meets the criteria of Sec. 22.130 of the Los Angeles Administrative code. The building is an example of the Mid-Century Modern style, which was exemplified by master architect, Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A.

"800 S Robertson Blvd Office Building", architect Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A., 1954 - HCM 1047
Steve Ward is responsible for writing and submitting the application for 800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building by architect, Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Edward H. Fickett 1959 Home in The Colony Gets New Lease on Life

3043 Nichols Canyon Rd, 90046 - Architect, Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A., 1959 - $1,685,000
At the top of Nichols Canyon, you are enchanted by an enclave of custom tract homes built in the late 50s by architect, Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A.  The area is know as "The Colony" and features beautiful designs by the architect.  This week, 3043 Nichols Canyon Road went on to market as a pocket listing until open for the public just a day ago through the MLS.  The post and beam home built in 1959 was purchased in 2009 through foreclosure by a couple who saw the potential through years of neglect and lack of upkeep.  The current owners, not only restored the original vision of the architect, but have brought soul back into this home.  I applaud the sellers for their efforts and success in bringing this Fickett design back to life.  I include remarks made about living in the home through a letter written to Joycie Fickett from prior residents, at the bottom of this article.  The mid-century modern pool home is being listed for a modest $1,685,000
With a low-slung gable roof line made up of tongue and groove covering the spacious interior of 2,265 square feet including 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, this modern home features Fickett trademark design while bringing the outdoors in through clerestory windows, walls of glass and sliding doors that lead to a lush landscape and a pool, high up in the hills.  He would also use partial walls to allow light to transfer throughout a home, as he did here. Through a private mezzanine, you are greeted by a turquoise-painted front door, which opens into a light-filled entry with skylight above.  Turquoise was one of Fickett's favorite colors and used for many architectural accents of his homes including front doors and trellises.  The original linoleum flooring has been lifted to expose the concrete slab flooring which is now stained and sealed.  You can see Fickett's use of his partial glass walls allowing light to pass while providing privacy with beaded glass panels.
Fickett teamed with builder Lee Lauger to create a handful of models for this modern tract of homes built in 1957 through 1959, now known as "The Colony".  The living room features a brick-faced fireplace with a window above the mantel.  Fickett's often used round chimney is also exemplified in this home.  The round chimney is very synonomous with his work and creations in the 1950s. 
As you can see here, the living room is large enough for two seating areas.  The deep eave of the roof helps interior solar gain while transmitting natural light through its walls of glass, clerestory windows and sliding doors.

The dining area is large with convenient access to the kitchen.  Views of the outdoor garden, planters and pool can be enjoyed while having a meal. 
The kitchen has been completely remodeled with today's modern conveniences and appliances.  The owners chose marble as the resource for the counter tops and also provide new cabinetry with plenty of storage.  They also opened up the wall between the dining area and the kitchen to provide a continuous flow of the floor plan.  There is also a breakfast area on the opposite side of the dining area.  The original frosted lighting orbs hang from the ceiling.

The sleeping quarters feature new carpeting, walls of glass and plenty of closet areas. Fickett always provided for storage and closet space, which many homeowners appreciated.
The bathrooms have all received an update.  The below master bath seems to feature new tile from Heath Ceramics, but don't quote me as I am not 100% sure.  I like how the owners decided to keep the wall heater intact providing a retro feeling as well as a practicality. 
The tasteful selections the owners made with choosing new finishes for the bathrooms are apparent: clean and simple.  Nothing is overdone with this renovation.  The owners opted to keep the intended simplicity of the original design.  Kudos!
Fickett would often times design homes with a "mother-in-law" suite or separate cabana, as he himself, at times, lived with his "mother-in-law".   3043 Nichols Canyon would also provide for a "mother-in-law" suite.
The home is sited on a 8,670 square foot flat lot and with no rear neighbors!  There are many garden areas for seating and dining.  The large pool is equipped with a spa while surrounded by lush greenery and the tranquility of nature.
Decks, side yards and a fire pit allow for a family to sprawl while enjoying the privacy and safety of this home.

As you know, I am close with Joycie Fickett, the widow of Edward H. Fickett.  She has shared a letter written by a prior occupant who had rented the home in the late 80s and through the 90s.  I'd like to quote a few sentences written in that letter describing the experience of living in this Fickett house:
"I will always remember the first night we spent there.  Lying in bed, looking through a wall of glass at the eucalyptus tree and the tropical plants in the garden, was like going to sleep in a forest.  The rest of the house was equally amazing.  It felt like we were living in a huge wooden tent, with windows everywhere open to the garden.  The walls were kept to a minimum to ensure basic privacy without destroying the feel of the house.  Clever little touches like the frosted glass 'light traps' in the bathrooms seemed to catch the sunlight and give plenty of illumination throughout the the day.  The kitchen was another treasure trove of little touches: beautiful frosted glass lights hung from the ceilings like suns, and a huge window in the dining area made every night feel like an outdoor picnic.  Unlike all the modernist houses we had visited, this one felt immediately like home."   --- Laura Buller, Resident 1988-1999
Below are photos of the home at the time of foreclosure and prior to the current owners renovation.  I always hate to see Fickett homes in distress. 
If you would like a private showing of this beautiful example of master architect Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A, please contact me to set up a convenient time to tour this home.  Also, if you currently own a home designed by Fickett, please contact me if thinking of selling your home.  I am the only Realtor® who is endorsed by Joycie Fickett and has access to Fickett's personal archives.  There is no one better to sell a Fickett home!

This home will be open to the public Sunday, August 17, 2014 from 2-5pm for an open house.  If in the area, be sure not to miss this one.  If interested in more of Fickett's work, be sure to search my blog for other articles written by using the "Search This Blog" button above.  There are many of his homes and work cataloged. 

Listing and photos courtesy of MLS and Stephen Parisi - DPP