Inhabiting a Legacy

For the children of L.A.’s most renowned architects, the famous last name might open a lot of doors, but it also brings some towering expectations. Five Angelenos who’ve gone their own way while following the family line
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ERIC LLOYD WRIGHT

Although it might be hard to believe after a journey down some of its cluttered boulevards, Los Angeles boasts one of the world’s richest collections of works from architectural masters. Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, Welton Becket—even a partial list of architects whose buildings dot the city can impress. The L.A.-based offspring of these geniuses are both blessed and burdened. Along with the benefits of an immersive education and instant name recognition, they bear the weight of expectation.

All must reckon with it, each in his or her own way. Architect Eric Lloyd Wright has not one but two legacies to contend with. He’s the son of Lloyd Wright, who built a robust portfolio in L.A. while struggling his entire career to step out of the shadow cast by his father, Frank Lloyd Wright. Eric apprenticed with his grandfather for 8 years and worked for his father for 22 before finally venturing off to renovate several of their residential projects and create noteworthy ones himself, like the Nin/Pole House in Silver Lake and the Maria Newman House in Malibu—structures infused with light, flowing spaces, and natural materials. “I never looked to see what the difference was between my grandfather or my father and me. I just did my work,” he says. At 86, Eric lives and works in the mountains of Malibu with his wife, Mary. On the edge of the sprawling parcel is his own two-story home, which has somehow eluded completion for 25 years, its angled concrete frame sculpted into a cliff high above the Pacific. Balancing a handful of projects, including a birdlike house in Malibu and studies for an eco resort in Belize, he works through the day—he has studios around the property—and spends evenings on the deck of the red trailer that he and Mary sleep in.

Wright has been working on his own home in the Malibu hills for decades
Wright has been working on his own home in the Malibu hills for decades

PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVE LAURIDSEN


ALEXANDRA BECKET

Arguably no architect built more of modern Los Angeles than Alexandra Becket’s grandfather, Welton, whose projects range from the Capitol Records tower and the Music Center to the Cinerama Dome and the LAX Theme Building. Trained as a fine artist, she didn’t understand the scope of her grandfather’s accomplishments until she was in her twenties. Today she considers his client-centered, practical approach a guiding influence. Since remodeling their West Hollywood house six years ago, Alexandra and her husband, Greg Steinberg, have renovated 12 homes in the region, combining contemporary lines and materials with an eye for uncovering and accentuating a building’s history and character. Alexandra, whose father, Bruce, is a notable architect himself, often stages homes with her original graphic art that colorfully depicts in pastel hues the works of her grandfather and other L.A. masters. The one thing the 38-year-old won’t do is slow down. “We’re the type of people who have to be productive,” she says of her clan. “I’m not someone who can sit back and relax.”

Becket designed the wallpaper and textiles for her latest home renovation
Becket designed the wallpaper and textiles for her latest home renovation

PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVE LAURIDSEN


FINN KAPPE

You’re starting a race, and you’re 30 years behind. You’re trying to catch up forever in a sense,” says Finn Kappe of the pitfalls of attempting to measure up to his famous father, Ray Kappe, an architect who cofounded SCI-Arc and built some of the most revered homes in the city. Finn, who’s 58, calls his career a “braid,” one that weaves together his distinctive style with the undeniable influence of his father. From early on he has been incorporating the expansive use of wood, glass, and open space that characterizes his dad’s work, albeit with more aggressive angles and a more conspicuous use of metal and color. Now Ray and Finn are collaborating on two Westside residential projects. “After some time, you realize you are part of something special and someone special,” says Finn, who divides his time between architecture, long-distance cycling, and playing guitar in his ’70s-style rock band, FK6—short for the Finn Kappe Sextet.

Kappe, at a Benedict Canyon home he designed, has lately teamed with his dad, Ray
Kappe, at a Benedict Canyon home he designed, has lately teamed with his dad, Ray

PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVE LAURIDSEN


DION NEUTRA

The name is an immediate opening. So it’s a leg up from being a nothing and nobody’s ever heard of you,” says Dion Neutra, whose father, Richard, was the Austrian immigrant who helped define midcentury modernism in Southern California. After growing up in famous locales like the Schindler House and the Neutra VDL Research House, Dion, who is 89, now lives in the vegetation-enveloped Dion Neutra/Reunion House in Silver Lake, which he and his father worked on separately. Though Dion went into architecture himself—his 1973 Scheimer House coolly rests on a hill in Tarzana—his practice never thrived. Instead he has focused on preventing Neutra projects around the world from being overrenovated or altogether erased. “I feel like Hans at the dike,” says Dion, “trying to keep the water from inundating the country.”

Neutra, in the Reunion House, designed by his father in 1950
Neutra, in the Reunion House, designed by his father in 1950

PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVE LAURIDSEN


DAVID MARTIN

The imprint of A.C. Martin’s firm, founded in 1906, is all over L.A., with a portfolio that includes City Hall, the DWP headquarters, and St. Vincent Church. There was little question what career his grandson David Martin would pursue before he entered the family business in 1969. Currently one of the company’s two design principals, Martin is leading, among other projects, the creation of downtown’s Wilshire Grand, the sail-shaped tower that will be the tallest building west of Chicago when it’s completed in 2017. Seventy-three today, David has raced off-road cars and motorcycles since he was young. He also fashions steel tubes and metal plates into furniture that adorns his Rustic Canyon home. “When you can build something with your own two hands, you can’t go wrong,” he says. “It all goes together.” In 2014, he started the Martin Architecture and Design Workshop, an incubator for young designers and inventors.

Martin at his home studio in Rustic Canyon
Martin at his home studio in Rustic Canyon

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