Frank Israel (February 16, 1995)



This event did not take place at SCI-Arc.

Richard Weinstein introduces Frank Israel, characterizing his work as an unforced armature supporting intense, autonomous, differentiated moments. Operating within the fictive and disconcerting environment of contemporary Los Angeles, his architecture affirms the pleasure of seeing and the possibilities of the change.

Frank Israel proposes that although most architects hate their clients, they are important because there would be no work without them. Frank O. Gehry introduced him to Frederick Wiseman, who hired Israel to design a major addition to a distributing plant originally designed by Gehry. Wiseman took his role as patron seriously, and insisted that the addition maintain the integrity of the original buildings. Israel went on to design a private art museum in Holmby Hills for the Wiseman. It housed his art collection, and he saw it as his own personal Katsura Palace.

Discussing a home addition project he did for Wesley and Marla Strick, Israel recalls that they asked for a third level that could be a bedroom, living room, and bathroom in a single space. The resulting design is sequential, pulling you into the bedroom/living room and out to a terrace overlooking the city. Israel presents a project for two movie producers and a director who wanted a place where they could retreat into “in their own world.”

Israel discusses a house he designed for a married couple, both doctors, on a steep site in Berkeley that is terraced into four levels up the hill. He developed a pallet of materials that included copper, cedar, plaster, and other materials from the history and traditions of Berkeley. Another project was for a client near Tampa. This client already owned a house designed by Richard Neutra, and specifically requested that their new home be nothing like their Neutra home.

Israel discusses the School of the Arts project for UC Riverside, which combines the school’s programs in theater arts, music, dance, writing, sculpture, painting and art history in a single building. He won the commission with a competition entry scheme in which a large roof became a landscape and mirrored the historic arroyo adjacent to the site. Israel describes how refreshing it was to work with clients who wanted more radical schemes and who wanted a building that would change the identity of the campus. The resulting design achieves a balance, in which the landscape and open elements are as important as the building forms.

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