Forgotten Giant - Page 6

Once the ‘miracle man’ behind more than 40,000 tract homes, Southern California architect Edward H. Fickett and his modern hybrids slip back into the limelight

At the nearby Sunset Lanai apartments, many tenants stay for decades, resident John Kane says. "Why wouldn't they stay? You cannot find a place this luxurious, built around a swimming pool. The apartments feel private in a way they don't in the cookie-cutter apartments that followed Mr. Fickett."

A recent visitor, he says, took one look, and announced, "Oh, this is a Fickett building, isn't it?"

"It's fair to say that those in the know," Kane said, "know and appreciate Fickett."


Photos: Edward H. Fickett, Michael McCreary Photography, Dave Weinstein, Chris Iovenko; and courtesy Joycie Fickett collection, University of Southern California Libraries (Special Collections), Barry Dantagnan


Fickett's Custom Homes Offer Surprises

One of Fickett’s four custom homes designed for Al and Marilyn Gersten, Cabo San Lucas, 1986.

When Michael Rosen went looking for a home, he sought out that 'wow feeling.' He found it often enough, in homes offering 10,000 square feet, even 7,000.

But a measly 4,000? Not likely. Until, he says, he came to the house Edward H. Fickett, FAIA, had designed for himself in 1972.

With walls that opened completely to the out-of-doors, rooms artfully arranged to take in views, and a bedroom designed to capture the reflections of light as it plays across the pool below, Rosen was hooked.

"It's like living outside with all the protections of living inside," he said.

"The nickname of this house is really 'Reflection,'" he said during a recent tour of the home, "because the reflections are really amazing. It's like a big mirror, the house."

The home, in the Trousdale Estates neighborhood of Beverly Hills, attests to Fickett's financial success—and to the variety of his work. Except for its openness to the out of doors, it looks nothing like the tract homes that make up most of his residential work.

Nor do some other of his custom homes. Once the Fickett archive becomes available to the public, it will be possible to determine just how varied the architect's residential oeuvre really is

But meanwhile, consider these:

Along the strand in Manhattan Beach is a classic early 1950s modern redwood box of a home—two homes really, one right on the beach, its twin floating just above. The front home has a classic, cantilevered deck overlooking the sand, and an atrium protected from the winds by translucent panels.

It would be difficult to imagine anything less pretentious or more appealing.

Then there's Fickett's 1980 Gersten house, in Beverly Hills, a looming creature with a pyramidal roof whose central skylight illuminates a two-level foyer with a bridge-like mezzanine.

Like the Fickett-Rosen house, the Gersten house has a sunken sitting area in the living room—a frequent Fickett touch, his widow Joycie Fickett says.

Fickett clearly enjoyed curves. He designed an immense 1986 house, also for the Gerstens, in the rocky hills above Cabo San Lucas as a series of domed pavilions arrayed on curving, freeform terraces.

Steven Price, who has written the soon-to-be-published 'Over the Top: The Architectural History of Trousdale Estates,' says it is hard to say which of the homes in the neighborhood are by Fickett.

But he hopes to find out. "Edward Fickett is an unbelievable giant," he says, "an under-sung master, greatly deserving of respect, attention, and appreciation."

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