Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Buff & Hensman: Building California Dreams

Conrad Buff III (1924-1988)and Donald Hensman (1924-2002), and associates Calvin Straub (1920-1988, partner from 1956 to 1962) and Dennis Smith (40 year employee, partner since 1988 and president upon Hensman's 1998 retirement), have been a major presence of modernist understated elegance on the Southern California landscape for the last 60 years. Buff & Hensman's first of many cover appearances in the L.A. Times Home Magazine was an August 31, 1952 three-page spread of their mountain A-frame cabin for Buff's well-known parents. They shortly thereafter burst onto the scene (with Calvin Straub) with their iconic post-and-beam Case Study House No. 20 for designer Saul Bass in Altadena in 1958. (see below).
Oct. 15, 2005 Tour Brochure (28 pp.), Friends of the Gamble House, Pasadena & Foothill Chapter - AIA, and USC School of Architecture, Julius Shulman Job 2675, Getty Research Institute. (from my collection).

This house, so expertly captured for the pages of ten separate issues of Arts & Architecture magazine in 1958 by Julius Shulman, was featured in at least 150 other publications over the years according to my Buff & Hensman Annotated Bibliography. It has been featured on numerous books and magazine covers and is included in any book featuring the Case Study House Program. Case Study House No. 20 (with Julius Shulman's assistance) firmly established Buff & Hensman's legacy.
Another publication that fans and collectors should seek out is "Buff & Hensman" edited by James Steele with photographs by Julius Shulman published by the USC Architectural Guild Press in 2004.

Thompson/Moseley Residence, San Marino, 1959, Rick Barnes photo. (from my collection).

This compilation remains the most in-depth monograph on the firm's work to date and includes an introduction by two-time B&H homeowner Alex Moseley, and a preface by USC School of Architecture Dean Robert Timme and highlights the history of the firm's almost exclusively residential work. An illustrated year-by-year chronology of projects and index are included in the back-matter. The partner's post-war years as student's and faculty at USC are discussed as is the importance of Julius Shulman's photographs in preserving and enhancing the firm's standing in the pantheon of Southern California Architectural History. Being a Buff & Hensman homeowner, you can expect many mare posts on this blog on their work.
Two links of note are included to direct the reader to the Buff & Hensman website http://www.buffsmithandhensman.com/
and  Buff & Hensman Facebook Fan Page which I established today to provide a forum for discussion and display of the firm's work.