La Jolla Historical Society: 2013 Young Architects Summer Camp


In early 2013 I received an invitation to lunch with the new Executive Director of the La Jolla Historical Society, Mr Heath Fox. With a meeting set at Herringbone in La Jolla, I headed to meet Heath with a somewhat question looming of ‘why does a ‘historical’ society ED want to meet me?’ – after all, here at DBRDS we preach modern design (site/context appropriate first & foremost) & have always considered La Jolla to be prouder of its architecture that most people consider to be of a ‘traditional’ nature, rather than embracing the mid-century modern architecture which is widely scattered throughout La Jolla. To say the least, I could not have been more wrong about Heath’s enthusiasm for all of La Jolla’s architectural history, & his vision to embrace some of the very important buildings from Salk Institute by Louis I. Kahn (one of my personal favorite buildings I have ever experienced) to the 3 Case Study homes (the only 3 I might add which are not located in Los Angeles) from the 1950’s, and so on. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Heath & responded with an immediate ‘YES!’ when he asked me to participate in the 2013 Young Architects Summer Camp.


While I may have held a ‘Co-Chair’ role in the organization of the camp, the person who deserves so much thanks & praise for the success of the camp is local La Jolla Architect Laura Ducharme-Conboy. I first met Laura in 2008 when presenting our Altair project to the La Jolla Community Group (with a unanimous approval…shameless plug). As a community industry leader, I instantly wanted to work with her on this summer camp & can say that she is one of the hardest working, professional, caring & considerate people I have had the privilege of collaborating with. She made the entire experience a great time for everyone, from the volunteers to the students, she made sure everyone felt valued & part of a great experience. The camp ran for two weeks & was graciously hosted in one of the Science Labs at the Bishops School in La Jolla. The first week was for middle school age students & the second week was for high school students. So, from 9-3:30pm each day we kept them entertained, fed, educated & inspired – all for the future generations who will craft our built environment.



The camps itinerary was jam-packed. Monday mornings kicked off with ice-breaker games by Architect Trip Bennett, followed by an ‘Introduction to Architecture‘ presentation by yours truly. Not as formal as it sounds, my talk related the architecture that these students every day (their home, bedroom, school, shops, etc) to the more cultural & community significant architecture both locally & globally. Next up was Laura to give a presentation on the value of hand sketching in the industry & ‘how & why’ we sketch. This was all followed by a single-point perspective lesson by Trip.  A great morning followed by a lunch in the Bishops School courtyards for them to get to know each other a little & then it was off our the first of our two field trips to see some local houses.



First up was the historically designated Wheeler Bailey House by Irving Gill, then a shingle style beach house by Laura. The next two, a Case Study House & Russell Forester’s 1970’s residence were without question my favorite houses of the day. The current owners of the Case Study house have maintained this house in impeccable condition & it was such a wonderful series of spaces that had my jaw dropping the entire time. The kitchen cabinetry was all original, the floor to ceiling windows in the bathroom were amazing & the way this house blurred the lines between inside/outside spaces was breath-taking. It is a spectacular example of how we should be living in Southern California! The Forester house on the other hand was a wonderful exploration in how form, structure & art can all come together harmoniously to create an inspired residence. The late Mr. Forester’s wife Christine was a wonderful tour guide explaining everything from the art pieces to the thinking behind planning & designing this home which was clearly inspired by Forester’s studies at the Institute of Design (later IIT) in Chicago under the modernist great Mies Van Der Rohe In. A truly wonderful lady who particularly inspired the female students.








Tuesday’s started off with an introduction to reading & drawings floor plans. This was specifically designed to get the students to this about planning spaces & the presentation of plans. This was followed by a dynamic presentation by Placemaker’s Principal Howard Blackson on how San Diego & La Jolla were planned over time & what decisions informed our predecessors to sculpt what San Diego is today. The final activity for Tuesday’s was an introduction to a 3D modeling software called ‘Google SketchUp’ by volunteers Tyler Grant, Drew Razon, Craig Howard & Perriann Hodges.


Wednesday morning we jumped back on the bus for another tour, this time we started at the Lillian Rice House (re-model by Laura’s firm), an early Russell Forester ‘California Ranch Style’ house. At this stop I challenged the students to pick a house each on the street to do a 5 minute sketch, with the goal of them to consider this street’s character…they all did really well. Next house was the ‘Mr. Belvedere’ Residence by Laura’s firm….a fantastic home that celebrated is concrete, glass & steel structure. Particular attention was given to the kitchen space & the relationship to the back yard – both of which were beautifully designed. Final house on the tour was the Ryan House by DBRDS to show the students how a modern coastal addition can be made to a traditional 1950’s beach bungalow without interrupting the character of the street & community character. They had an opportunity here to see how the existing house had a series of smaller traditional windows, while the new addition completely opened up to the back yard with a 15′ bi-folding door. Extra credits were given to high school student Vaill D’Angelo for commenting this was her favorite house of the tour. A+ for Vaill I say! Laura also did a quick sketch (1 minute) of the Ryan House roof planes upon arrival…this is below. Final activity for the day was to build a little physical model of a traditional structure using pieces that had been precut (by Craig Howard & the DBRDS awesome intern Samantha Wellnitz).



Thursday’s were dedicated to the students personal projects that we gave them to work on. A 10′ x 10′ retreat space to be designed to sit on the lawn adjacent the Wisteria Cottage, home of the La Jolla Historical Society. The students were challenged to design a space that conformed to the Prop D height restrictions in La Jolla, but to think outside the box to design a dynamic space which took advantage of the ocean views, the sun paths, and the existing 100+ year-old stone wall which separates the upper & lower levels of the lawn space. Using sketches, floor plans, Google SketchUp & physical models, they were develop their ideas both Thursday & Friday with the guidance of Laura, myself & other volunteers in preparation for presentation to their parents on Friday afternoon. To be honest, each one of the students designs & their abilities to communicate ideas through the various mediums, all really blew me away. I was so impressed with the level of consideration each one gave to their design concepts. From the views, to the entry & vertical movement up their various levels, & even textures & materials, they all had great ideas which really came through in their presentations. I liked a couple of them so much I started to sketch their designs myself…they were that cool.






At the end of each week, each student received a presentation booklet that they could take away from the camp as a keep sake of their designs & the camp. Everyone did fantastic & using the different mediums to illustrate their concepts…here is a glimpse into the students personal projects with some of my favorite pages…


05 DSC05538




07 3D

04 3D

05 3D

03 3D

06 3D

All in all, it was a great experience & am honored to be able to pass along some of my passion & knowledge for this challenging profession. I think I got through to a few of them that this is not a ‘job’, this is a ‘way of life’ & once your hooked, well, your completely hooked. They were great students, led by a dedicated volunteer team for a great cause. Totally happy to have been a part of this experience.

Thank you to LJHS Executive Director Heath Fox & Chair of the LJHS Education Committee Jennifer Harter for inviting me to participate.

Thank you to Laura Ducharme-Conboy for being a spectacular leader & wonderful person to work with. I truly enjoyed getting to know you better through this camp.

Thank you to Craig Howard, Perriann Hodges, Meredith Zelenka, Drew Razon, Samantha Wellnitz, Eric Hollister, Ara Hovsepyan, Howard Blackson, Trip Bennett, Tyler Grant, Tony Crisafi, Ben Willis, Judith Haxo, Rebecca Morales & all the volunteers who played key roles to make this a seamless & smooth week for the camp.

Thank you to all the students & parents for participating, after all without you there would be no camp.

Finally, thank you to the La Jolla Historical Society for promoting education about the built environment. Inspiring the next generation is super important & this camp was truly a great insight for young minds into the complex world of the architecture & how they can play a part in their built environment.

Here is a bunch of great photos by our official photographer Eric Hollister. He took a lot of amazing photos along the way, all of which are available in high-resolution…I am just having some technical difficulties this morning, so I threw them all together. For High-Res versions you can contact Eric at


One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: