Documenting and Celebrating San Diego's Mid-Century Modern Architecture & Design

Modern San Diego is dedicated to celebrating and preserving the rich history of San Diego’s Modernist heritage. We offer exclusive insights, history, and access to our region's most intriguing buildings, personalities, events and design objects originating in San Diego during the 20th century.

After years of buying art, craft and furniture from the 1940s and '50s, I discovered that I was a devotee of 20th century modern design. Specifically, the purchase of a home near SDSU defined that my curiosity, and determined sleuthing could uncover parts of San Diego's history seemingly lost. In short order I helped the community realize the internationally recognized architects had designed and/or built projects in the County - including Craig Ellwood, Gregory Ain, Lloyd Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright, Al Beadle, Ed Killingsworth, Kenneth Nomland, Ed Fickett, Cliff May and many more.

Robert Glasheen
Douglas Simmonds Jr.

The Pre-War Roots of Local Mid-Century Modernism

San Diego’s Modernist heritage arguably begins Irving Gill. Gill's influences range from the Arts & Crafts and Prairie Style movements as well as from his mentor Louis Sullivan. In 1916, Gill described architecture in terms of straight lines, simple cubes, and shear plain walls unadorned by cornices, overhangs or anything but a simple vine growing along the structure.

In addition to plain walls of light color - referencing both the missions and the regional hot, dry climate - Gill’s preference for simplicity as well as his desire to organize a structure and its gardens would prove important to later indoor-outdoor living concepts of Mid-century Modern idealists.

Douglas Simmonds Jr.
George Lyons
Douglas Simmonds Jr.

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