Built for Living!
September 3, 2014 7:36 PM   Subscribe

The Mar Vista Tract in West Los Angeles, California was designed by Gregory Ain in 1947, in collaboration with Joseph Johnson and Alfred Day. Ain was a significant "second generation" modernist architect who had worked with and was influenced by the first generation of California Modern masters - European immigrants Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler. Ain believed in bringing good design to the masses; he belonged to the school of thought that espoused architecture's potential to shape a more egalitarian world. He is credited as being the first architect to design a house that did not contemplate servants. A lot of Ain’s ideals were achieved in the "Modernique Homes" development, the name under which the Mar Vista Tract was marketed in 1948. The intent of the Mar Vista Tract was to create a housing development that provided cost efficient housing while advancing the cause of Modern architectural design.

These Dec. 1947 Master Control Plan blueprints show the planning of the tract, including floor plans, lot sizes, house types, and window configurations.

There were a total of 23 different color design combinations created for the houses. This was done from 24 colors and an additional seven floor colors.

Landscaping (by Garrett Eckbo)
Landscaping plans by address with photos and descriptions of plants. Complete plant list.

In 2003, the Gregory Ain Mar Vista Tract became the first Post-World War II Modern historic district in the City of Los Angeles, officially known as a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (“HPOZ”).

Modern day life in a modern classic

posted by Room 641-A (14 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

I definitely want to read more about Ain. Reminds me of the Eames' in trying to make the best for the most with the least. Thanks!
posted by xingcat at 7:40 PM on September 3, 2014

Here in the LBC we have have a similar tract, although Cliff May's post and beam ranchos are maybe not quite as elegant as those Mar Vista examples.
posted by notyou at 7:43 PM on September 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Wonderful post! I'm looking forward to reading these links. Well done.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:45 PM on September 3, 2014

I kept reading that as Mars Tract and then was not disappointed at the pics because it does look like what the 40s thought The Future Colony on Mars would look like.
posted by sio42 at 8:05 PM on September 3, 2014

Ain, who designed the homes with partners Joseph Johnson and Alfred Day, would almost certainly have preferred that they be sold as part of a cooperative housing project, such as a 280-home cooperative he had designed for Reseda, in San Fernando Valley, two years before. That project died when the Federal Housing Administration refused to finance a racially integrated neighborhood.

posted by Lyn Never at 8:36 PM on September 3, 2014

I often fantasize about having enough money to retire into a neighborhood of Southern California mid-century houses just like these. Although I guess in my head I'm a little closer to the water. Still, these are extremely charming.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:37 PM on September 3, 2014

Come to think of it, in my head you can probably see the Santa Monica Pier from my house, so maybe Mar Vista isn't perfect for me. I couldn't find a decent link, but I wonder if at least part of the reason I'm so attracted to the area is because Mar Vista has stood in for "mid-century Los Angeles" in a great many films and television shows?
posted by ob1quixote at 8:57 PM on September 3, 2014

Although I guess in my head I'm a little closer to the water

If you can ride a bike, you can ride down Venice or Washington and be in the water in 10 minutes or less.
posted by sideshow at 9:06 PM on September 3, 2014

And 10-20 mins after that you could be at the Santa Monica Pier, depending on how much you like scaring the tourists on the bike path.
posted by sideshow at 9:10 PM on September 3, 2014

Another interesting and similar place in West Los Angeles is Crestwood Hills, which was designed (mostly) by A. Quincy Jones.
posted by cell divide at 9:31 PM on September 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Although I guess in my head I'm a little closer to the water.

This is about as close to the water as you can get and live in an area with more than a couple mid-century modern homes in greater Los Angeles, as far as I know.
posted by cell divide at 9:33 PM on September 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

The reality of Mar Vista in 2014 is simply bizarre. You have millionaire sitcom stars in swanky-ass homes living within a stone's throw of apartment buildings that are crowded to bursting with poor Latin families, and then out on Venice Blvd. you have a lot of little hipster galleries and salons and such right next door to really skeevy liquor stores.

I get the feeling that this area was just a nice, kind of anonymous little neighborhood for a long time, but then the real estate market exploded and this part of town became really schizo. Nobody wanted to move out of the apartments and the old folks won't budge until they die, so every time a property opens up buyers descend on it and either knock the place down and build something pricey, or they pay way, way too much for some run-down old house and then refurbish the hell out of it. Almost everybody who lives around here is either really rich or really poor.

Plus, the high school from Grease is where I take my evening walks. Every time I go around the track I have Summer Lovin' stuck in my head.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:36 PM on September 3, 2014

You can't see it, but oh man, my hands are in pure grabbing claws, desperately wanting to live in a house that looks like this.

Give me that house! I don't care how inappropriate it is for a British neighbourhood! I don't care about potential drainage issues and the heat radiating from those windows! Gimme now!
posted by Katemonkey at 4:21 AM on September 4, 2014

"Ain is said to be the first architect to design a house that did not contemplate servants."

What a bizarre thing to say and for people to keep repeating verbatim and without attribution.

Perhaps moderately true-ish, for special cases of "first", "architect", "design", "house", "contemplate", and/or "servants"; otherwise obviously counterfactual on its face.
posted by Herodios at 7:24 AM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

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