© 2016 by The A Frame Project

The very first modern A Frame

February 8, 2017

Coincidentally, the first modern A frame home was built in Lake Arrowhead.  To make the story even more interesting, this A frame was designed by none other than Rudolph Schindler.  Yes, Austrian born architect extraordinaire Schindler!  Schindler is one of my favorites, and his most important works were built in or near Los Angeles during the early to mid-twentieth century.  I had the pleasure of viewing his Newport Beach masterpiece, the Lovell house (shown below), when I was trying to sell the neighboring home. 




    Schindler worked and trained with architectural greats like Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard Nuetra.  His inventive use of complex three-dimensional forms, warm materials, and striking colors, as well as his ability to work successfully within tight budgets, have placed him as one of the true mavericks of early twentieth century architecture.

     The first modern A frame was built in Lake Arrowhead in 1934 for Gisela Bennati.   It's form actually grew out of the design restrictions of that tract at that time.  All the cabins were required to be in Norman style.  Funny story...Schindler, jokingly designed Bennati's A frame with the roof to the ground.  When the members of the art jury were doubtful that the design was pure Norman, Schindler gathered up a bunch of old prints of steep-roofed homes by the artist Atkinson Fox.  Fox was a famous painter of European landscape and architecture at that time.  Schindler laid the prints in the laps of the jury and said, "Don't you recognize these gentlemen?  Pure Norman!"  Since no one on the jury had actually been to Normandy the design was passed and the first A frame was born! 






    The use of local stone and fact that the home's site was on a gentle slope, gave it a feeling that it belonged among it's natural surroundings compared to the other homes in the area.  Fir plywood was used between the framing members for walls and cabinets.  Schindler was a fan of this new industrial material.  The finished home contained six rooms within the all-roof cabin, with bedrooms off a balcony.  Now the colors...Schindler lost his battle with Mrs. Bennati regarding the homes colors.  She was an art teacher, and considered this her area of expertise.  Schindler believed that color was an architectural element.  In the end, Mrs. Bennati got her way, and Schindler was not used to not getting his.  According to Mrs. Bennati he got sick over the incident.  Schindler made few contributions to landscaping, his interest in gardening stopped at the terrace.  He preferred to work with what was on site, and by integrating the trees into his architectural designs, he was showing love and respect for them.

    Schindler's cabin's were not rustic in any way, not even the Lake Arrowhead A frame.  He was an urbanite, and this was always reflected in his work.  Even his smaller homes found throughout Los Angeles never had a cottage, cabin, or rustic feel to them.  It was said that he gave them an informal dignity that did much to lift Los Angeles out of a prolonged provincialism, and I couldn't agree more!



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