At the entrance of Crestwood Hills, a neighborhood in Brentwood in Los Angeles, the sign reads, “Crestwood Hills: an architecturally controlled community.” It all began in 1946 when four musicians returned from war hoping to build homes for themselves around a swimming pool. They placed an ad in the local newspaper to see if anyone else would like to join them, and, astoundingly, 500 families responded. After pooling together their resources, they ended up purchasing 800 acres of a hillside with views of downtown Los Angeles. This group called themselves the Mutual Housing Association, and they saved money by buying materials in bulk and designing similar midcentury modern homes. For the designs they hired A. Quincy Jones, Whitney Smith, and the structural engineer, Edgardo Contini. They believed in progressive ideals, such as the need to create multi-ethnic communities.
Jones and Smith designed twenty-nine plans for the houses, with the majority being slight contrasts on several different plans. This is where the application of the ethos of midcentury modern flourishes: open plans with wide stretches of glass creating the feeling of free space, while also allowing the ability to see to the end of the property; materials were exposed concrete block, redwood siding, and Douglas Fir ceiling planks. Houses, in accordance to the rules of the Mutual Housing Association, respected the orientation of the homes around them, being put at a 45-degree angle to the street, and all were to be a maximum of one story from the street level, so the neighborhood could maintain the appropriate scale to ensure every home had a view of the mountains.
Though many people call them utopian, these were all simple, common sense ideas—the notion that middle-class families could enjoy a remarkable quality of life in a major city through the implementation of simple design principles. TVOA is proud to have represented one of A. Quincy Jones and the Mutual Housing Association’s homes: 12449 Deerbrook Lane, and now, 12436 Deerbrook Lane.
By: David Plick