Carter Sparks: Special Salute

Celebrating the architect of Sacramento's 3,000 Streng homes on his 100th birthday
Fridays on the Homefront
Architect Carter Sparks (above) and his long and prolific career caught our attention recently, on the day that would have been his 100th birthday. Looking back, we take a time out to honor Sparks, and kick off his centennial year. Portrait photos courtesy Jennifer Sparks

The architecture of the revered Carter Sparks never fails to turn heads, achieving a unique expression of personality and livability.

Sparks' name and prolific career caught our attention recently, and in particular on February 26, which would have been his 100th birthday.

Sparks (1923-'96) of course is the singular genius behind the 3,000 Sacramento-area modern homes he designed for Streng Bros. Homes, scores of custom residences, and commercial and civic buildings throughout the Sacramento Valley.

Fridays on the Homefront
Sparks-designed Streng homes in Davis. Photo: David Toerge

To assist in celebrating Sparks' centennial year, we spoke with Eichler Network features editor Dave Weinstein, who, over the past two decades, has written more about the architect and his work than anyone else.

"One of the most important things that has come to the fore is how really creative Sparks was—wild in some ways," Weinstein says. "I think that he was able to talk the Strengs into doing things that most builders wouldn't have done. He designed cluster housing, those pyramid-shaped houses—that was something else! Eichler wouldn't have done that."

Sparks' natural, modernist designs merged with the landscape in classic mid-century California style. Much of the joy of studying the architect's work is in discovering his unique talent for combining disparate elements into works of art.

  Fridays on the Homefront

Angles, cantilevers, and natural features erupt with dramatic flair in Sparks' hands. He was able to handle every kind of design form, from low-slung structures to dramatic hyperbolic paraboloid rooflines. His ability to elevate the commonplace by integrating personally designed details—whether exquisite hardware or massive oversize doors—made him a favorite among his clients.

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