La Jolla house designed by master architect Sim Bruce Richards is designated historic
A house halfway up Roseland Drive overlooking Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla was designated historic Jan. 27 by the San Diego Historical Resources Board.
The designation was approved as a consent item, meaning there was no discussion or debate about the house. Items are listed on the consent agenda if all parties are agreeable to staff recommendations and the proposals are deemed non-controversial.
In this case, city staff recommendations were in line with a historical resource research report prepared by La Jolla-based IS Architecture in favor of the designation. It concludes that the William and Virginia Calloway/Sim Bruce Richards house at 10 E. Roseland is significant under board Criterion C (indicating that a property embodies distinctive characteristics of a style, type, period or method of construction or is a valuable example of the use of natural materials or craftsmanship) and Criterion D (indicating notable work of a master builder, designer, architect, engineer, landscape architect, interior designer, artist or craftsman).
According to a staff report associated with the recommendation, the single-family residence was designed by Richards, a master architect, and built in 1947 in the Contemporary style. Richards also designed an addition to the house in 1967-68.
“Unlike earlier styles which are generally defined by exterior decorative details, the Contemporary style focused on interior spaces and their relation to the outdoors,” the report states. “Emphasis was placed on integrating the indoors with the outdoors by utilizing windows and exterior living areas such as balconies and courtyards. The style was popular in San Diego in the 1950s and 1960s largely because it could be easily adapted to hillside lots.”
Features include strong roof forms with deep overhangs and exposed beams; large aluminum-framed windows; non-traditional exterior finishes including vertical wood siding, concrete block, stucco and flagstone; sunshades, screen or shadow block accents; broad masonry chimneys; and distinctive triangular, parabolic or arched forms. Contemporary houses often incorporate angular massing, attached carports or garages, courtyards or balconies, obscured or recessed entries and split-level designs.
“The [house] continues to convey the historic significance of the Contemporary style by embodying the historic characteristics associated with the style,” city staff wrote in the report.
The house also was deemed significant for its connection to Richards, who designed nine other historically designated structures in San Diego.
The home “retains excellent integrity and continues to reflect Richards’ original design, intent and aesthetic,” the staff report states. “The house is significant as an example of Richards’ residential work, characterized by complex roof forms and angular massing. Additionally, the original structure and the 1967-1968 addition display two different phases of Richards’ career and illustrate his evolution as a designer in the Contemporary style.”
Richards, credited for his influence among post-World War II Modern-Contemporary architects, moved to San Diego in 1938 and worked for the Navy. “He also worked in the architectural offices of William Templeton Johnson and Harold Abrams before opening his own practice around 1949,” according to the staff report. “He focused on residential design, although he also designed several public and commercial structures.”
Richards died in 1983.
The benefits of historic designation include availability of the Mills Act program for reduced property tax for owners to help maintain, restore and rehabilitate historic properties; use of the more flexible Historical Building Code; use of the historical conditional use permit, which allows flexibility of use; programs that vary depending on site conditions and the owner’s objectives; and flexibility in other regulatory requirements. However, houses cannot be significantly modified once they are designated historic.
The San Diego Historical Resources Board meets monthly. To learn more, visit sandiego.gov/development-services and click on “Public hearings, meetings and notices.” ◆
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