The Atwater Bungalows – Hopi-Style Architecture in the Heart of Echo Park

Atwater 1

Photo Credit: Latimes.com

Among the many types of property for sale in Echo Park are buildings with strong architectural and historical interest – for example, the Victorian homes on Carroll Avenue or Frank Lloyd Wright’s futuristic tribute to Mayan temple architecture, the Ennis House.

Today we’ll take a look at the Atwater Bungalows, Pueblo-style buildings that lend their unique architectural flair to Echo Park’s eclectic roster of historic buildings.

The Atwater Bungalows were built in the early 1930s, commissioned by Dr. H. Gale Atwater, an early Echo Park luminary who built several Pueblo-style buildings on Avon Terrace. The Atwater Bungalows were designed by Robert Stacy-Judd, the architect who designed the flamboyant Aztec Hotel in Monrovia, California. The details of the original commission brief are lost to time, but it’s likely that Atwater was enchanted by the Aztec’s majestic design and innovative use of materials.

This period in American architecture was characterized by bold experimentation, and many architects became fascinated with traditional construction techniques and natural materials. Adobe, which comes from a Spanish term that means “mudbrick,” is one of the earliest building construction techniques known to humankind. Adobe construction is common to large parts of North, Central, and South America, but it can also be seen in traditional village complexes in Mali and cottages in Ireland.

Generally, adobe buildings start with bricks made out of earth and a binding material like corn husks and straw. The bricks are stuck together and covered with a thick coating of adobe mud that gives adobe structures their characteristic smooth, rounded textures. Traditional adobe buildings incorporate rough-hewn log beams that are considered a signature element of Mission-style design, and modern adobe specialists have begun to use steel to create an extra-durable interior structure.

Adobe buildings were extremely common California during the Spanish Mission period, in part because mud bricks were easy to manufacture in the warm dry climate, and in part because thick adobe walls promised insulation from the scorching desert sun. Adobe churches and colonial administration buildings can still be seen in California, from as far north as Sonoma to as far south as San Diego. Adobe architecture enjoyed a resurgence in Southern California when the Golden State became famous as the home of Golden-Era Hollywood. A generation after the Atwater Bungalows were completed, Pueblo-style stucco homes would proliferate in California’s expanding postwar suburbs.

Today, adobe is popular both because of its unique texture and shape and because it provides a green air-conditioning alternative to homeowners looking to protect the environment. Since adobe is versatile – it can be used to create many different textures and ornaments, almost like buttercream icing on a cake – contemporary architects in Southern California are exploring creative variations on traditional Mission- and Pueblo-style designs.

Atwater 2

Photo Credit: Latimes.com

As an early experiment in modern adobe construction, the Atwater Bungalows combine architectural innovation with revivalist anachronism. Built from dense unfinished adobe that gives the exterior a rustic appearance, the bungalows are ornamented with pueblo-style windows, staircases, and cone-shaped chimneys. Aqua and orange trim creates a lively contrast with the dun-colored adobe surface.

Stacy-Judd’s creations tended towards the fantastical, and the Atwater Bungalows are meant to capture the spirit rather than the historical reality of the traditional Hopi kivas that inspired his design. He took a fanciful approach to finances, too, and the bungalows were finished “way over budget,” according to Atwater’s grandson.

Although the Atwater Bungalows are a familiar landmark to local residents, they’ve never attracted as much interest or activity as the Ennis House or the Victorian homes on Carroll Avenue, and they’ve never appeared in a movie or music video. Despite their relative obscurity, their imaginative construction and inspired design make them an iconic addition to the Echo Park neighborhood.

Real Estate Unlimited is a real-estate company dedicated to representing clients in Echo Park and other historic neighborhoods throughout the Los Angeles area. We pride ourselves on our in-depth knowledge of the Los Angeles area, and we’re glad to give our clients the benefit of our local expertise.  Call us to schedule a consultation today! 

Comments ( 0 )

    Leave A Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *