Category Archives: Images

From Coast to Desert: Two California Modernists

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Hass Residence, Carmel, 1969. Mark Mills Papers, Special Collections, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

By Peter Runge and Laura Sorvetti.  Edited by Jesse Vestermark.

Special Collections at the Robert E. Kennedy Library, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo collects records documenting the architecture and built environment of California. These collections are used by a wide variety of researchers and support the scholarship of the students and faculty of the university. Included are the records of architects Mark Mills and William F. Cody, two  Mid-Century Modern architects of California.

Mark Mills

Mark Mills (1921 – 2007) quietly and steadily established himself as a highly regarded, if not well-known, architect of the Big Sur/Carmel area of the Central Coast of California from the 1950s to the early 2000s. After graduating from the University of Colorado in 1944, Mills worked for Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West, eventually leaving to design and build an experimental geodesic dome in the desert of central Arizona with Paolo Soleri.

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Project drawing, Hass Residence, Carmel, 1969. Mark Mills Papers, Special Collections, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Shortly thereafter, Mills retreated to the lush and rugged landscape of Big Sur and Carmel, California, where he designed and built over forty custom homes and buildings that are both inspired by and reflect the landscape in which they reside. The distinctive and organic Hass house in Otter Cove captures the structural elegance and reverence for space that characterized Mills’ design aesthetic.

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Architect Mark Mills. Mark Mills Papers, Special Collections, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

The Mark Mills Papers at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo include correspondence, photographs, bound presentation portfolios of his published work, and architectural drawings, primarily for single-family residences.  For more information and images regarding Mills, refer to this previous blog post: Coastal Modern: Architect Mark Mills.

William F. Cody

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Presentation drawing, Cameron Residence, Thunderbird Country Club, Rancho Mirage, 1950. William F. Cody Papers 2, Special Collections, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

A contemporary of Mark Mills working in Southern California, William F. Cody, FAIA (1916-1978) was an influential Desert Modern architect who practiced in Palm Springs at the peak of the Modernist movement. Between 1946 and 1973, Cody maintained a diverse practice in California’s Coachella Valley, designing country clubs, residences, hotels, and church projects.

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Project drawing, Moncrief Residence, Thunderbird North, Palm Springs, 1955-56. William F. Cody Papers, Special Collections, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Cody’s specialization in country club clubhouses with related residential developments helped to define the Palm Springs landscape of the 1960s. His residential projects emphasized key elements of Modernism: simplicity of form, natural light, and large windows offering a seamless connection between residential interiors and the outdoors.

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Huddle’s The Springs Restaurant, Cameron Shopping Center, Palm Springs, 1957. William F. Cody Papers, Special Collections, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, two substantial collections—the William F. Cody Papers and the William F. Cody Papers 2 —contain a wide range of records, including student work, architectural drawings and plans, office records, public relations materials, photographs (including photographs by Julius Shulman), correspondence, and project files.  The bulk of these document his practice from 1946 to the mid-1970s, when a stroke limited his career.

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Presentation drawing of proposed Racquet Club Cottages West, Palm Springs, 1960. William F. Cody Papers, Special Collections, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.