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Bella Vista Terrace, Mountain Trail & Alegria Avenue, Sierra Madre, Los Angeles County, CA

Bella Vista Terrace, Mountain Trail & Alegria Avenue, Sierra Madre, Los Angeles County, CA

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1999 Charles E. Peterson Prize, Entry
Significance: Bella Vista Terrace (1910), located in Sierra Madre, California, is nested against the southern foothills of the San Gabriel mountains. Architect Irving John Gill of San Diego originally proposed twelve residential units with the unbuilt dwellings to have been slightly set-back from the eastern and southern edges of the property. A grid-pattern of concrete walkways linked the units and their individual terraces with the central communal space. At the core of the property was a free-standing pergola consisting of piers supporting rafters, originally constructed of thick branches covered with vegetation. A croquet court was located near the pergola. The rationality of the site plan is expressed in three-dimensions through the form and layout of the residential units. Gill reduced the units to simple, cubic masses, square in plan with attached loggia articulated by arched openings that front onto the courtyard. In contrast, the street facades are virtually blank, with small wooden casement windows and entrance doors set within arches. The principal construction materials were concrete and terra cotta hollow-tile. Bella Vista Terras provided Gill with the opportunity to investigate a number of issues which he had begun to explore after 1907. In response to southern California's mild climate and historical traditions, Gill's works developed from the ornamented late Queen Anne house to simple geometric forms that opened to the landscape. Gill's construction systems evolved from wood frame and various uses of concrete, culminating in the application of a tilt-slab system in his later works. Landscape elements vines, lawn and carefully positioned trees animated the spare rectilinear and arcuated wall surfaces. While Bella Vista Terrace was occupied historically by affluent vacationers, the approach Gill took to the project was consistent with his view that well-designed housing should be available to working-class families. Gill's commitment to socially-responsible architecture, the use of rational planning and construction techniques, and his sympathetic response to climate and local building traditions, made his work attractive to the next generation of southern California architects, who sought the same values in their own work. Among these practitioners were Richard J. Neutra, R.M. Schindler and their followers who helped for form the distinctive school of Modernism that emerged in the region.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: N595
Survey number: HABS CA-2722



Historic American Buildings Survey, creator


Sierra Madre (Calif.)34.16764, -118.07213
Google Map of 34.1676415, -118.0721319


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