I am an architect’s daughter. When I was growing up I thought it was normal to visit historic buildings and cathedrals. Most of our family vacations were based around visiting at least one (sometimes three to four) important architectural sights each day. I was constantly being asked to get into the picture – not to show the world that I had been there – but for scale! Also, I was usually tasked with holding one end of a 50 foot measuring tape (Dad was obsessive about dimensions).
I was reminded of my father’s great love for architecture at the October 12, 2016 Barona Lecture by Paul and Sarai Johnson. The program was in conjunction with the newly opened exhibition at Barona Museum – Stones in the Meadow: Irving Gill’s Church and Cottages on the Barona Indian Reservation. Paul and Sarai’s presentation was specifically about the Workman’s Cottages of Irving Gill, and their great admiration for him and his work is quite catching!
I learned that Gill’s early background greatly influenced this architecture. He grew up on a farm and spent time working with his father, who was a farmer and carpenter. Gill’s first official job was listed as gardener. Being one of six children, his mother was always occupied in endless household work. Gill’s cottages were designed with both his parents in mind. He incorporated what he learned from his father in carpentry and landscape and thought of how to make cleaning more efficient and less time consuming for his mother.
Gill’s cottages showcase the beauty of nature. The exteriors were plain, leaving the landscaping and nature itself to take hold. The cottages were not just a place to lay your head at night, they were proper homes. A place to be enjoyed and feel truly comfortable. Gill thought of details that make houses functional: window seats, mudrooms, and butler’s pantries (not just for butlers!). When Gill received his last commission – the church and houses on the Barona Reservation – he incorporated all that he had learned during his lifetime as an architect into making homes for the people of Barona.
It was a truly wonderful evening and Paul and Sarai’s great love and knowledge of architecture reverberated throughout the room to an audience of students and Gill aficionados alike. For me, it brought back beautiful memories of traveling with my father, paper and pencil in hand, and holding the end of a measuring tape.