Having worked with Richard Neutra and Rudolf Schindler, Harris worked for decades balancing naturalism, or organic architecture, while embracing a modernist ideology. Harris' early years in San Diego, Los Angeles and the Imperial Valley emboldened his respect for Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and Greene & Greene rather than turning to the house as machine constructed by central European modernism. Seeing the house as setting a tone, or an atmosphere, Harris sought to build houses that were of the land, and of the people that resided inside of them (rather than those that only witnessed the exterior).
List of San Diego Projects
Mr. & Mrs.
John Comstock Residence (1940)
To protect the broad expanses of glass from the harsh sun, Harris cut holes three feet square in the cantilevered roof section that extended out over the terrace [of the Birtcher House]. The holes were deep and had the ability to protect the inside from the light coming in at sharp angles. Because of his similar use of a sunscreen and three-board fascia in the small John Comstock [house] of 1940, it is tempting to see it as a precursor of the Birtcher house, a place where Harris tried out some of his new ideas with wood. -- from Harwell Hamilton Harris by Lisa Germany.
Dr. & Mrs.
Lodewijk Lek House (1942)
The Lek House shed roof gave Harris a chance to bring light into a living room from its blind side. Once again, a clerestory on one elevation opened up another with a broad exposure to the outdoors, in this case through plate glass. Beneath the clerestory, on the unit lines outside, wooden braces emerged like tentacles and bolted into the structural members of a pergola below. Something of the strength of the image, almost a brutality, was a bit reminiscent of Schindler, but the joining of wood was all Harris, and though he had always shown a predilection for junctures of wood, this house was prophetic of a return. -- from Harwell Hamilton Harris by Lisa Germany.
Mr. & Mrs.
Langford Brown Residence for Ladies Home Journal (1942)
Alvin Ray Residence
In 1950 Harris was commissioned to design a house in Fallbrook, California for Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Ray. He gave their wide-open hillside site a design that traced its origins back to they Wyle house of several years earlier. Wings stretched out into the landscape and large glazed areas furnished the interior with abundant views. A library at the core of the house, removed a bit from the light-filled wings, nevertheless received a softened, indirect sunshine through a skylight Harris created by lifting a small section of roof above the clerestories. A patio made a feature of a natural granite outcropping on the property. Harris had reacted to the spirit of the landscape as he always had, but the experience with the Ray house evoked a more personal response than he had expected. It made him miss the California of his youth. As they drove through the avocado groves of Fallbrook he and Jean decied that they would build a new house for themselves in this area. Thus they might recapture their lost California. -- from Harwell Hamilton Harris by Lisa Germany.
Mr. & Mrs.
Harwell Hamilton Harris Residence (1952)
For their own house Harris turned his back on the very wooden Craftsman idiom that had guided him through the Ray house. He chose instead concrete block construction, plastered and painted white. As he wove patio and courtyard spaces into the house, so too did he wind pieces of wooden trellis painted a burnt orange. One first saw it as a pergola above the entrance walk and later as a simple trim over specific window and doorway areas. It even appeared at the opening to the couryard on its side, ladderlike against the plaster. Strong light and shadow made the wooden detail as mutable as it was decorative. In this it was quite unlike the cast stone ornament of the Hollyhock house, but there can be little doubt that Wright was behind Harris' articulation of it in the composition of the Fallbrook home. -- from Harwell Hamilton Harris by Lisa Germany.
Originally planned as a combined home/office, Harris’s own home was organized around four trellised courts. Construction depended on heat-absorbing concrete block walls -- one of them a freestanding visual separation between the living room court and the drafting room court. Before the house was finished Harris took a position as Director of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas. Although completed the following summer, the Harrises only lived in this house for five days.
and Carol Residence