Following in the footsteps of Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, and Frank Lloyd Wright, whose warm geometries, natural forms, and subtle ways with organic materials set the stage for a new way of living earlier in the twentieth century, architects and designers like Gregory Ain, Charles and Ray Eames, A. Quincy Jones, Pierre Koenig, and John Lautner all helped define what we now call “mid-century modernism” in Los Angeles. The distinctly American style that emerged through these and other architects in the middle of the twentieth century, especially on the west coast, combined the graceful lines and human scale of Neutra, Schindler, and Wright with the minimalism and stark rhythms of the International Style and the philosophies of the Bauhaus School in its exuberant experimentation.
Instrumental to the aesthetic and engineering advances of the era was the Case Study House initiative conceived and implemented by Arts & Architecture magazine. As a response to the post-World War II need for housing, the Case Study House program challenged architects to design and build low-cost homes. The majority of the Case Study House projects that were realized were built in Los Angeles, and most of them were featured in Arts & Architecture, documented in now-iconic black and white photographs by Julius Schulman. Along with furnishings designed by Charles and Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia, and Arne Jacobsen, Case Study and other modern homes were decorated with ceramic vessels by Architectural Pottery.
Founded by Max and Rita Lawrence in 1950, Architectural Pottery was formed to produce the experimental pottery being designed by LaGardo Tackett and his students at the California College of Arts in Pasadena. Fans of the new styles in architecture and design, the Lawrences lived in a number of Gregory Ain residences. Ain, like most of the architects who rose to prominence during this period, advanced a style of living that incorporated indoor and outdoor spaces, made possible by the invention of post and beam construction that allowed for large open spaces and glass walls. The Lawrences recognized the need for a new kind of planter to unify minimal architectural forms and respond to the reduction of boundaries between inside and outside.
Tackett and other potters like David Cressey, John Follis and Rex Goode developed the signature style of Architectural Pottery, a look that, like the buildings where they were situated, was both sculptural and minimal. Eschewing ornamentation and favoring an architectural scale, the planters and pots are characterized by elegant geometrical forms that work both inside and outside. Metal or wood stands emphasized the pieces as design objects, while pieces that rest directly on the floor or ground became instantly integrated into the surrounding environment. With references to ancient vessels and totem forms, Architectural Pottery pieces update the timelessness and durability of ceramic, using a reductive aesthetic to express a modern sensibility that endures today.