… He was becoming Craig Ellwood, the epitome of an architect in mid-century L.A.
Known for his place in the pantheon of California architecture, and being so very L.A., Craig Elwood is even just his stage name.
In fact He was born Johnny Burke, and while being Johnny he worked as a cost estimator in an architectural firm prior to Chapter Two inside the actual trade.
Because of this on-the-job experience as Johnny Burke, Craig Ellwood was known to deliver his projects within the budget, AND on time. Think about that for a minute!
He worshipped Mies Van Der Rohe, and you can see it in his use of steel mass beams to grip and support the bridge at The Art Center. Built in 1977 his bridge is more of an installation, and those black bolder-like beams make blunt what a medieval buttress made pretty. The Art Center project had so much bad-ass presence it matriculates across campus like some sort of beast assuming it’s welcome.
Mies aside, Ellwood adapted to California living in all ways. His modern homes have glass walls that allow the lush verdure of a California canyon to push in, with a view that forces the eye to push out across those sprawling L.A. jetliner views.
As you can see below; a classic L.A. design.
One house; two views.
All this and apparently Craig was a fabulous bon vivant. Fun loving, not quite Liz Taylor, but a proponent of marriage in plural. He was a notable dandy with a pluck for fashion, and along with the wardrobe came the Ferrari. More proof of a true L.A. man – his flash showed in choice of car, mid-life crisis not required. Also, when staging his PR photos, he liked to use co-worker’s wives in lieu of professional models, and those within his circle said it was less cost cutting and more Key Party.
And speaking of P.R., Ellwood was a former press agent for the Hollywood Bowl, which meant he never lost his swing on all he learned there, either. A large amount of his success came from the fact that he was savvy with self-promotion, and a master marketing man. Imagine what he would have accomplished today in the sphere of Social Media.
But at the end of the day all his work is a precise example of mid-century spare and California living. He was known to create living spaces with glass walls, and/or walls that served absolutely no purpose, but all walls seemed to be set as a frame to drama, or maybe (sort of) just obscure it.
It didn’t seem to matter much that he wasn’t particularly lauded by other architects. He had his wardrobe, his wives, some viable press, and because the work speaks for itself, still today, a sensational legacy remains.
The Many Faces of Craig Ellwood.