Sturges House

 
(1947)* - Frank Lloyd Wright’s Sturges House, Brentwood Heights, Los Angeles. Photo by Pedro E. Guerrero  

 

Historical Notes

The George Sturges House is a single-family house, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and built for George D. Sturges in the Brentwood Heights neighborhood of Brentwood, Los Angeles, California.

Designed and built in 1939, the one-story residence is fairly small compared to 21st century standards, 1,200 square feet, but features a 21-foot panoramic deck. The home is made out of concrete, steel, brick and redwood. Wright hired Taliesin fellow John Lautner to oversee its construction.^

 

 

 

 
(2010)^ – View showing the George Sturges House located at 449 North Skyewiay Road in Brentwood Heights.  

 

Historical Notes

The Sturges House is the only structure in Southern California built in the modern style Wright called Usonian design. Other Wright homes in the area were built in the 1920s with interlocking, pre-cast concrete blocks, which he named "textile block" style, and seen in such homes as the Ennis House.^

 

 

 

 
(2016)^^ – Close-up view of Frank Lloyd Wright’s George D. Sturges Residence, designed and built in 1939. Photo by Grant Mudford.  

 

Historical Notes

George and Selma Sturges came across the January 1938 issue of Architectural Forum, which was devoted entirely to Wright’s work, and decided that he should design their house. They contacted Wright and, according to the architect, stated that they wanted a version of the Jacobs House, his pioneering Usonian from 1937. The Usonian was Wright’s term for a small, single-story affordable home. While it employed many modernist devices, from asymmetric massing to a flat roof, it used a traditional material palette of brick and unpainted wood.*

 

 

 

 
(2016)* – The Sturges House as seen from across the street.  

 

Historical Notes

Set in a hillside lot in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, the 1,200–square–foot structure was designed just a few years after the famed Fallingwater, in Mill Run, Pa., both serving as iconic examples of cantilevered architecture paired with horizontal lines. They also mark the beginning of Wright's focus on engineering.^

 

 

 

 
(2016)* – Side view of the Frank Lloyd Wright George D. Sturges hillside residence, designed and completed in 1939.  

 

Historical Notes

The redwood-and-brick property diverts from Wright’s other Southern California homes which are predominantly made of concrete, such as the Hollyhock House, a stylized "California Romanza" hybrid structure built in 1921 in what is present-day East Hollywood. The Sturges home is Wright's only Usonian design in the city, which places an emphasis on creating a more affordable, modern home for the American middle class. Wright aimed to integrate the approachable aesthetic, which draws  on low roofs, open design, small size, and natural materials, as a way to create a national style that grew from the Prairie style homes.^

 

 

 

 
(2016)^.^ – Close-up view of balcony deck.  

 

Historical Notes

While the design omits an attic and basement, an open floor plan and a 21-foot wrap-around deck, covered by a redwood overhang, make use of the modest space. Curbed LA describes the home as a "pivotal project for Wright," one which "marks a high point in Wright's Usonian style."*

 

 

 

 
(2016)^.^ - Side view of the Sturges House showing its massive cantilevered balcony.  

 

Historical Notes

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Sturges House introduced three architectural features that became common to the postwar hill house. First, it treats the foundation as a separate dramatic element. Second, it employs a single level floor plan in the form of a tray or platform supported by the dramatic foundation. Third, it is clad in the more traditional materials of brick and wood, which will appear on some of the developer-built hill houses of the late 1950s.*

 

 

 

 
(2016)^.^ - Frank Lloyd Wright | George D. Sturges House.  Photo by Grant Mudford  

 

Historical Notes

Noteworthy is the means by which Wright holds up the cantilever. A rear-to-front section through the house shows that the joists supporting the floor of the living area and balcony are anchored in the brick mass of the fireplace and rear wall. As the joists extend toward the downhill side, the first portion of the extension is supported by the brick foundation that encloses a shop and mechanical space. The middle portion of the joist extension goes as far as the exterior wall of the living area, and the final portion of the extension supports the balcony.

To hold up this cantilever, Wright installed a row of diagonal wood brackets or struts. They begin about one-quarter of the way in from the corners of the brick foundation, and rest vertically against the upper half of the foundation wall. They extend diagonally upward and end below the living area wall. At this point they support a beam that runs parallel to the front of the house, under the living area wall. This beam extends beyond the row of brackets on both sides as far as the edges of the balcony. It supports all the joists and permits the balcony to cantilever beyond.*

 

 

 

 
(2016)^.^ – Interior View - Frank Lloyd Wright | George D. Sturges House – Photo by Grant Mudford  

 

Historical Notes

The house was commissioned by an aerospace engineer named George Sturges, and his wife Selma.

Since 1967 it was owned by James Bridges, director of films including The China Syndrome, Bright Lights Big City and Urban Cowboy, and his partner Jack Larson, an actor best known for portraying reporter Jimmy Olsen in The Adventures of Superman, the 1950s TV show.

The couple hired John Lautner to restore and adapt the house. Bridges died in 1993 and Jack Larson remained in the house until his death in 2015.*

 

 

 

 
(2016)^.^ – Interior View - Frank Lloyd Wright | George D. Sturges House – Photo by Grant Mudford  

 

Historical Notes

The floor plan follows the pattern Wright had established for his Usonians. The house is a small singlestory rectangular pavilion, made to seem larger by the balconies. A large combination living-dining room and two small bedrooms face the downhill side and open onto the balconies. The living space extends the full depth of the house, from the cave-like fireplace to the French doors overlooking the view. Behind the bedrooms are a small kitchen, labeled “workspace” as was typical of Usonians, and a single small bath. The plan is an early version of the single-story arrangement that would become common in the postwar hill house.^

 

 

 

 
(2016)^.^ – Looking up at the Sturges House, 449 N. Skyewiay Road, as seen from the street.  

 

Historical Notes

The Sturges House was designated as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #577 on May 25, 1993.

 

 

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