- This is the seventh installment of the history of our neighborhood. View more stories about Fisher Park neighborhood’s history!
- The main photo is the J. Herbert Brownell Architecture offices.
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Story #7 – 1950s Architects Find Fisher Park
As Sharon and River Lane were beginning to see families purchase lots and start to plan their dream homes, young architects were able to experiment. In the Spring of 1961, J. Herbert Brownell together with several other prominent local Modernist architects participated in the fifth annual “Architectural Home Tour” sponsored by the “Women’s Architectural League of Orange County” right here in Fisher Park.
In 1957 Dr. David Geddes and his wife Carol hired the prominent Newport Beach Architect James Herbert Brownell to design a home for them at 1210 W. River Lane. J. Herbert Brownell had recently completed his new design office in 1954, using douglas fir beams and large expanses of glass at 1950 West Coast Highway, Newport Beach, CA . This is where he would make a name for himself designing his most well-regarded residential, commercial and governmental projects, including the residence of Myford Irvine (son of James Irvine II) in Corona Del Mar (1959), Hoag Hospital (1966), and the hexagonal Smoke-Lyster house (1974) in Laguna Beach to name a few. Brownell’s “Compact House” development in San Diego (1962) with units that are only 17’ wide is recognized as an ingenious solution to building on narrow, hilly lots.
In 1960, Brownell was elected President of the Orange County chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). In the Spring of 1961 Brownell together with several other prominent Modernist architects participated in the fifth annual “Architectural Home Tour” sponsored by the “Women’s Architectural League of Orange County” right here in Fisher Park. The home of architect Gates W. Burrows (built in 1956) was also on the tour at 950 W. River Lane and was used in the advertisements of the event in the Los Angeles Times on April 30, 1961.
Of his design philosophy, Brownell wrote “…the structure should be suited to the physical environment, honestly expressing the use of simple materials, dramatic, warm in feeling and designed to function well for the intended purpose. The job of the architect is the housing of a family so that it may live comfortably, conveniently, economically, and with a certain pride in possession. If the plan of that home fulfills its needs, if its design conforms to its construction and reflects its planning, then it is a good house and will serve its purpose as a good home for the family.”
The Geddes worked with Brownell to create a custom family home that includes some of his signature design aesthetics. Private courtyards to enjoy quiet garden views. The importance of natural wood, stone and furniture quality finishes on cabinets and built-in shelving. He also used the architectural design principle of compression and release. The experience of moving through small, narrow spaces and grand, open spaces — a long hall suddenly gives way to a high-ceilinged living room. A carefully choreographed sequence of scales that produces a feeling of freedom for a family.