Gregory Ain (1908-1988)
Gregory Ain graduated from the School of Architecture, University of Southern California, Los Angeles in 1928. He worked with Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra. In 1932 Ain was Schindler’s draftsman in one of the studios at his Kings Road home and studio.
Alongside Harwell Hamilton Harris, Ain worked on drawings and models for Neutra’s Rush City Air Terminal Project, Ring Plan School Project, and Lehigh Cement Airport Competition as well as projects Neutra planned on presenting in Europe at the CIAM meeting. (1930).
With Neutra traveling the globe, Ain began designing on his own in the evenings in 1929. Between 1930-35, Ain helped prepare working drawings for the EW Pottle Residence, VDL Research House, William Beard Residence, Joseph Kun House and others.
Ain established his own identity as a building designer in 1935 with several commissions. Ain drew alone and collaborated with others (with Harwell Hamilton Harris on the Moss Residence and Hunter Residence) for months before his first built project emerged – the Charles Edwards Residence (1936).
Gregory Ain built his first hillside house for Anselem Ernst in 1937. According to David Gebhard, the first Ernst residence was “… only a few doors south of the Edwards house. The external fenestration, and the treatment of balconies and overhang, came as close as Ain was ever to come to emulating Schindler. Even the interior space of the living room with its layered cornice and clerestory has far more to do with Schindler than with Neutra. The remaining interior spaces and the centralized halls and stairs illustrate how Ain always insisted on the logic of tightly organized plans. Hillside houses such as the Ernst dwelling ended up being essentially apartments set in the landscape. Ain would later (1962) design a second home for Ernst upon his retirement on a sloping lot in Vista, California.
Possibly due to the influence of both Schindler and Neutra’s interest in low-cost housing, Ain’s ideas became his trademark. His most widely published design, Dunsmuir Flats (1937) was the first design Ain committed to reducing building costs for middle- and low-income families.
As Ain’s career peaked in the late 1930s, World War II (and the years after) would offer new challenges. As the war approached, Ain was awarded a Guggenheim grant (1940) to continue his work on low cost family housing. During the war years Ain, according to Gebhard “…worked as Chief Engineer for the Moulded Plywood Division of the Evan’s Product Co. of Los Angeles, and he helped Charles Eames in his use of plywood for his bent plywood chairs.” The war ended and Evans could not handle the production demands of Eames’ chairs. The original designs continue to be produced by Herman Miller to this day.
While little is known why Gregory Ain was passed over for inclusion in John Entenza’s Arts & Architecture sponsored Case Study House program, Ain employed many of its ideological pursuits in low-cost housing. In conjunction with landscape architects Eckbo, Royston & Williams, Ain designed housing tracts in Altadena (Park Planned Homes, 1946), Venice (Mar Vista housing project, 1947) and Reseda (Community Homes Inc., 1948).
In 1950, with Joseph Johnson and Alfred Day, Ain designed an exhibition house for the garden of MOMA, New York. Contrasted with Marcel Breur’s house of the previous year by Eliot Noyes and Phillip Johnson, Ain’s design fell short on style, cost efficiency, and left many of the architects fundamentals found in his built projects missing.
According to Gebhard, Ain’s work of the mid 1960s has similarities with Schindler’s last designs. “Both utilized elements of the builders’ vernacular to create structures which on first encounter read as low art object…. Ain’s designs seldom seem complete, though the parts and the usual rationalism of plan are often brilliantly carried off.”
San Diego County
of Gregory Ain: The Play Between the Rational and High Art