Available Material Part 2
Recently, I wrote about an old idea: use the available material. In that post, I noted that California is full of strong structures that use simple materials, and marry them to a natural setting. I also gave some examples from a fall road trip to Northern California. Fortunately, trails and wooded areas are never too far away from me, and I often walk in the Arroyo Seco, near my home. On the east and west banks of the Arroyo, there are homes built of rounded river rocks and long shaped beams. Some are legendary, part of the architectural setting for the Arts and Crafts movement in the early 20th century.
The landscape of the Arroyo Seco was the setting for Ernst A. Batchelder’s house. Batchelder became, in the early part of the 20th century, a well-known designer and producer of decorative ceramic tile. On Arroyo Drive, at a curve on the eastern bank, sits his unimposing home and studio. It nestles into the shady oaks nearby. From the street, the front elevation shows a strong-beamed, shingled house with brick and stone at the foundation. According to architectural historian David Gebhard, a kiln still stands in the backyard, where the now-coveted Batchelder architectural tiles were first produced.
On the opposite side of the same street lies La Casita del Arroyo, a low-slung structure. I wandered around this public meetinghouse recently, and took some pictures. The hall seems to step down into the steep bank of the Arroyo, and the imposing chimney stands broad and strong. The stone construction is rough. As I learned (from David Gebhard and Robert Winter’s Los Angeles: An Architectural Guide), architect Myron Hunt “donated his services and designed this structure using boulders and sand from the Arroyo, fallen trees from higher up the canyon, and even part of the bicycle track abandoned after its use in the 1932 Olympics.”