Vincent R. Bonini (1918-1998)
Following his graduation from UCLA in 1937, Vincent Bonini first worked for Harold Sexsmith and then Lockheed until the U.S. entered World War II. In late November 1944 Vincent met Frank Lloyd Wright at an event in Lloyd Wright's Beverly Hills home ("...through the assistance of John Lautner..."). Three years later, Vincent wrote Mr. Wright to share his interest in joining the Fellowship in the near future.
Stationed in Chicago with the US Navy between 1945-46, Vincent worked for the home fleet newspaper. While in Chicago Captain Bonini became even more intrigued with architecture and the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. He wrote Mr. Wright requesting an appointment to visit Spring Green – to which Wright replied, that when Vince completed his military service, he could join the Taliesin Fellowship.
In 1946, Mr. Bonini went to Taliesin East, then on to Taliesin West. By the end of his stay with Frank Lloyd Wright's Fellowship (in 1947), he was working diligently as a draftsman. In the drafting room, Bonini met both Fred and Marianne Liebhardt and a several other Fellows he would maintain long-lasting friendships with. Among them was Paolo Soleri, who Bonini, also Italian, helped translate for in his early days at Taliesin.
Back in Hollywood, wife Maryann raised the children throughout Vince’s Taliesin education (Vince's father, Robert A. Bonini worked on Wright's Hollyhock House while the property). Additionally, in the years following the war, Bonini drafted for Harwell Hamilton Harris prior to a three year stint with Smith & Williams. Second to Wright, Vince was heavily influenced by Harris’ design philosophy.
Following his work in others’ architecture offices, Bonini sought to hang his own shingle. At first work was slow, but when Maryann displayed one of Vince’s models at the doctor’s office where she worked, his first client, the St. Julian family, responded to his design ideas. Aside from a number of custom residences, including his own, Vincent designed in the La Canada and Pasadena areas.
For a short time in the 1950s, Bonini worked with Floats Inc. While he did not design any of their Rose Bowl floats, he designed the Monsanto House’s interior remodel for Floats Inc as well as the company’s own conference room. Off the clock, Vince designed houses for Floats Inc owners Robert Henry and Roger Tierney.
While working on his own residences (#1 in 1950, #2 in 1957) in La Cañada, Vincent became friends with Eugene Weston III, who at the time was building a number of contemporary residences for clients - several of which were being published by Julius Shulman. Late in 1944, Vince met Shulman, mentioning that he had built a contemporary house for himself in La Cañada. Vince and Maryann borrowed patio furniture designed by Weston to stage a Shulman photo shoot (Modernism Rediscovered pp162-163) and soon enough the photos were published in the Los Angeles Examiner (September 11, 1955).
A few years later, after the Weston family moved to La Jolla, the Boninis followed suit. While the coastal town was enough of a draw, and he now had friends in town, Vince’s daughter’s asthma was worsening as the smog increased in La Cañada. Upon arriving, Vince designed the third residence for his family on Copa d’Oro where they lived for seven years. This residence was more traditional than Vince would have liked – as the neighborhood did not allow contemporary architecture.
Vince re-engaged with two of his compatriots in contemporary architecture – the firm of Liebhardt & Weston – where he worked during the 1960s. At the time Fred Liebhardt and Eugene Weston III were designing the Hyatt Islandia Hotel and years later, several projects for The University of California San Diego. Vincent Bonini assisted the firm of Liebhardt & Weston in construction administration. As the firm's workload slowed down Vince was hired by UCSD. Vincent Bonini would work for UC San Diego's Architects and Engineers department for the remainder of his career
Following the sale of their Copa d’Oro house, the Bonini family rented Frederick and Marianne Liebhardt’s La Jolla house for a number of years. After resigning from Liebhardt & Weston, the Bonini family moved to La Jolla Shores where Vince took up surfing, remodeling their home and ultimately retirement. Mr. Bonini's largest contribution through UCSD was his work on Scripps Memorial Hospital and UCSD Medical Center – a remodel of the San Diego County Hospital in Hillcrest.
*As yet unconfirmed are reports that Vincent Bonini worked for the company Environment Design with Salvatore Merendino.
Partial List of Projects
O. Residence (1957)
Residence #1 (1950)
Vincent Residence #2 (1957)
Residence #3 (1960)
Board Room (1958)
R., Harold Residence (1952)
& Restaurant (w/ Liebhardt & Weston) (1961)
A.T. Residence (1947)
Kaye, Mr. & Mrs. Arthur
E. Residence for (1959-60)
of the Future Interior Remodel (1960)
Disneyland, Anaheim, CA
Nyssrom (or Nystrom),
Kay and Edwin Residence
Pan Pacific Auditorium
Home Show Display House (1957)
St. Julian, Louis
United Church of Mission Village (1961)