New find: R.M. Schindler’s stationery. Designed in 1922; left behind at Kings Road after his death.
Meet Manuel Sandoval.
Not the guy in the picture. (That’s Alvin Lustig.)
I’m referring to the guy who built the cabinet Lustig is leaning on, and the desk in front of him, and the rest of the furniture in that office.
A little while back, I interviewed designer Ken Parkhurst about Lustig. Ken worked as Lustig’s assistant in 1945 and 1946, around the same time the William H. Thomas House was designed. He didn’t know anything about our house, but he knew a lot about the office pictured above, because that’s where he went to work.
"Lustig designed an office and hired a fellow who had studied with Frank Lloyd Wright," Parkhurst told me. "A Mexican guy."
It was a one-room office in a small building off the main streets of Beverly Hills. Lustig had gone to study with Wright, and according to him, he left in the middle of the night to escape. What Wright did at the time was employe all these starry-eyed hopefuls to do his house work—all of the labor of keeping Taliesin going,
This young Mexican fellow was a very talented woodworker, so Wright had him build cabinets and all kinds of things of that sort. The fellow was a very innocent, sweet person who was so thrilled to be doing this work for Frank Lloyd Wright. When he eventually left Taliesin, he ended up doing woodwork and not architecture at all.
So Lustig found him and had him do the office interior that he had designed. It was done in genuine mahogany. It was breathtakingly beautifully done. The guy was a master. And he worked for Alvin because Alvin was a famed designer out of New York.”
This gave me an idea: if I searched the Taliesin Fellows for apprentices with Hispanic names who “studied” with Wright before 1945, maybe I could dig up Lustig’s cabinetmaker.
So that’s what I did. After scouring and cross-referencing the Taliesin apprentice list several times—and following a few false leads—I finally found a match: Manuel Sandoval, a Nicaraguan (not Mexican) woodworker. Sandoval joined the Taliesin Fellowship on Oct. 25, 1932; Lustig arrived a little less than three years later, on June 1, 1935. The two men likely met in Wisconsin, but their early acquaintance was cut short: Lustig left on Sept. 1, 1935. The record doesn’t state whether he actually absconded in the middle of the night.
After leaving Wisconsin, Lustig returned to Los Angeles to start his own printing business; one of his earliest clients was Wright’s son Lloyd Wright.
Sandoval, meanwhile, continued to work for Wright Senior. In May 1936, he drove to Pennsylvania from the Taliesin West with two other Wright apprentices. Sandoval’s companions were heading to Bear Run to break ground on Fallingwater; Sandoval had been tasked with handcrafting the cabinets and carpentry (in swamp cypress plywood) for Edgar Kauffman’s Wright-designed office in Pittsburgh. (Wright had promised his client that Sandoval would complete the job “to the queen’s taste.”) As one of Sandoval’s fellow apprentices later recalled:
[Manuel] had come to Taliesin, he thought, to study architecture. Once his real talents were known, however, Mr. Wright never let him out of the woodworking shop. Manuel’s reverence for Mr. Wright was such that he made a velvet-lined box to store a pencil given to him by Mr. Wright.”
Sounds like Parkhurst’s guy.
Sandoval fulfilled Wright’s promise. The Kaufmann office is a masterpiece of modernist woodworking. It is now housed in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.
Sandoval went on to build the V.C. Morris Gift Shop (1948) for Wright as well.
In 1940, Sandoval left Taliesin and moved to Los Angeles, where he set up his own shop. At some point he renewed his acquaintance with Lustig, and by 1946, he was making Lustig’s cabinetry and furniture.
Which raises an interesting question. The cabinets in the Thomas House were custom-made for the space, and they perfectly match the cabinets in Lustig’s June Wayne House of 1949-50 (the last two photos above).
Above: The Wayne House kitchen
Below: The Thomas House kitchen
Given that Sandoval was Lustig’s go-to woodworker throughout the 1940s, does this mean that the cabinets in our house—and perhaps the custom plywood wall and redwood trellis as well—were made by Frank Lloyd Wright’s guy?
It’s certainly possible.
Dodge House (1965)
"This film, produced by architectural historian Esther McCoy, documents the Walter Luther Dodge house in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, and the life of its architect, Irving John Gill. The film was made to advocate for its preservation during a 7-year battle to save it fropm the wrecking ball. The campaign failed, and the house was destroyed in 1970. This film, created to help save the house, now serves as the building’s best surviving visual record. For more information on Dodge House and Esther McCoy, see her papers at the Archives of American Art"
As close as we can get to seeing it for ourselves.
Posters for Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England. Out Friday in the U.S. I just watched this and it’s the best kind of trip.
The Schlessinger House by R.M. Schindler (1952-1954). The last of his designs to be built.
My wife and I came very close to buying this house before the renovations were completed, but we ended up here instead.
Now, after years of careful, sensitive work by the great Eric Lamers, Schindler’s Schlessinger House has finally come to market. Every inch of wood, glass, and stucco was either restored or replaced. This is the house Schindler would have built if he hadn’t passed away right before construction began.
Conceived in 1952 for an elevated corner lot overlooking the Shakespeare Bridge, coincidentally within view of the architect’s first work in Los Angeles: the completion of the Hollyhock House at Barnsdall Park. With Schindler’s passing in 1953 before breaking ground, this would be the site of the last home he would design.
By way of Esther McCoy’s recommendation, a young John Reed was hired to provide additional plans and oversee construction. Budgetary constraints as well as owner preferences led to several changes in the subsequent plans.
Having purchased the home from the Schlessinger estate, the current owner set about to sensitively restore and align it more closely to the original Schindler plan. With Eric Lamers overseeing the restoration, it could not have been placed in better hands. In an effort to follow what were believed to have been Schindler’s intentions for the house, every decision was painstakingly considered. A fitting tribute to a great architect’s last work, and now an incredibly moving example of his much celebrated architecture of space.
Two bedrooms, two baths, & a newly configured office/study; located in the highly desirable Franklin Hills neighborhood of Los Feliz.
Listed by my friend Nate Cole for $1,149,000. If you’re in the LA area, definitely check it out. Even more stunning in person.
Jane Henson, who collaborated with her husband, Jim Henson, created Mushmellon in 1955. The puppet, whose eyes were the precursor to those of Oscar the Grouch, now lives in the Smithsonian.
Jane Henson died this year. More from The New York Times Magazine's ”The Lives They Lived” issue here.