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Thoroughly Modern

Casey Gillespie | November 26, 2018 | Feature Features

One of San Diego's foremost experts in midcentury-modern design—realtor, curator, author and serial renovator Keith York—is working to preserve one of our city's greatest assets: its architecture.
Above Keith York hangs Fred Hocks' “Terrestrial Time” (1958, oil).

1 Favorite architect?
Craig Ellwood Associates designed some of my favorite projects. Having lived in his only home in San Diego, I was able to experience the essence of Southern California indoor-outdoor living. Our current home, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice Sim Bruce Richards, seamlessly integrates structure and landscape with the original owners’ rich family history.

2 What makes San Diego architecture so enthralling?
Throughout the 20th century, architects and designers from elsewhere built fantastic buildings here, and relatively unknown architects left nearby cities like Los Angeles and Phoenix to come to San Diego. Even now, there is an immense amount of talent here pushing contemporary ideas forward.

3 Advice for someone renovating an architectural gem?
I recommend that buyers of vintage, architect-designed homes live in a space for one year before making any significant changes. Occupants often realize that the original intent of the architect or designer makes sense even decades later.

4 Favorite piece of local architecture?
Frederick Liebhardt’s La Jolla residence evokes feelings similar to those I experience when visiting Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and school in Scottsdale. And Richard Neutra’s Bond Residence has been beautifully preserved and curated by its last two owners; it exemplifies what many people imagine when they hear ‘midcentury modern.’

5 Current project?
In addition to a major redesign and relaunch of, I’m working on an exhibition of famed photographer Julius Shulman’s work. His photos drew worldwide attention to the postwar architecture and interiors of Los Angeles and Palm Springs. What very few people know is that he photographed groundbreaking work here in San Diego, much of which has not been published.


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