Harwell Hamilton Harris

Harris, Harwell Hamilton (b Redlands, CA, 2J uly 1903; d 1990). American architect. He served a three-year apprenticeship with Richard Neutra (1928-32), and was one of the earliest American members of CIAM, joining in 1929. He began his architectural practice in Los Angeles in 1933 and soon distinguished himself as a designer by the completion of a home for himself on Fellowship Park Way, Los Angeles (1935). This tiny wooden pavilion with removable walls, which hovered dramatically over its steeply sloped site, established a restrained vocabulary of generous space, economical use of materials and simple but exact detailing, which became trademarks of his later work. He acknowledged influences as diverse as Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and Bernard Maybeck, but the strongest was probably his association with Neutra and Rudolf M. Schindler. Like Schindler he began from an unequivocally modernist point of view, but evolved a personal style based strongly on a pragmatic handling of local conditions and materials.

Harris’s best-known work, the Havens House in Berkeley, CA (1941), employed a stack of three inverted triangular gables to support decks overlooking a dramatic view of San Francisco Bay. This was one of Harris’s many designs that addressed the problems of the steep hillside sites so common in California. The truss structure of the Johnson House in Los Angeles (1947) is made up of many small components and shows his articulated but unaffected use of wood. Harris’s academic career as director of the architecture programme at the University of Texas at Austin (1951-5) and as a faculty member at North Carolina State University in Raleigh (1962-73) took him away from California in his later years and expanded his practice, although it still consisted mainly of private houses.


K. Smith, ed.: Harwell Hamilton Harris: A Collection of his Writings and buildings (Raleigh, 1965)


Contemp. Architects

S. Woodbridge, ed.: Bay Area Houses (New York, 1976)

E. McCoy: The Second Generation (Salt Lake City, 1984)

L. Germany: Hanrwell Hamilton Hams (Austin, 1985)