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Romy Wyllie

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Caltech's Architectural Heritage: From Spanish Tile to Modern Stone
by Romy Wyllie   

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Publisher:  Balcony Press, Los Angeles ISBN-10:  1890449059 Type: 


Copyright:  2000


A richly illustrated, in-depth history, from the early 1900s to the present day, of the campus architecture of the California Institute of Technology.

The campus of the California Institute of Technology was destined for architectural greatness when, in 1915, the university's visionary founder, astronomer George Ellery Hale, retained one of New York's preeminent architects, Bertram Goodhue, to devise a master plan for 22 acres of orange groves in what was then rural Pasadena. That elegant plan still resonates in the contemporary oasis of buildings, each beautifully and often whimsically decorated with sculpture, wrought iron, and ornate tile work. Well-known architects Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey in 1910 had begun the original campus buildings in a Spanish Colonial style, but it was Goodhue's eclectic "planted patios and shaded portales, sheltering walls and Persian pools" that set the tone for the campus' illustrious architectural future.  Excerpt
From the beginning, George Ellery Hale believed that architecture should be given a leading role in defining the school's ambition. The buildings and setting were to represent science as a humane endeavor, to inspire faculty and students to the highest standards, and to take advantage of the California climate. In the fulfillment of Hale's dream, Bertram Goodhue created the plan, theme, and academic core; and Gordon Kaufmann designed Caltch's social center and first residential complex. After an interlude of eclectism a new Master Plan has reintroduced the spirit of the original campus with its shaded portales, planted patios, sheltering walls, Spanish tile and Persian pools.

Professional Reviews

Vincent Scully, Sterling Professor Emeritus of the History of Art, Yale University
"Romy Wyllie's history of Caltech's architecture is instructive, tragic, and challenging. It shows us how American architects of the early twentieth century like Goodhue and Kaufmann were able to shape a clear, firm, harmonious environment, a wonderful place, and how their successors later in the century came close to destroying it. Failing one of the Institute's famous explosions, nothing much can be done about the Library, but the architects who are now studying Caltech's future should keep this book in mind. It is the genius of the place that counts, the noble garden.

Robert Winter, Professor Emeritus of the History of Ideas, Occidental College
"A work of immaculate scholarship that is highly readable, this book tells for the first time the fascinating story of the architectural development of Caltech, one of America's greatest academic institutions."

Dr. Harold Brown, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC.
"A University's campus--its buildings, its landscaping, its style, embody its history, its aspirations and its relation to the surrounding community. Romy Wyllie's "Caltech's Architectural Heritage" deals perceptively with these elements which provided the physical environment in which Caltech's research and teaching evolved and flourished."

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