Abrams, Harold
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Batter-Kay Associates
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Wright, Frank Lloyd
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Wulff and Fifield

Lloyd Pietrantonio Ruocco (1907-1981)

Lloyd and Ilse Ruocco in their 'Il Cavo' house in La Mesa (ca. 1949)
Photograph by Edward Sievers

By Todd Pitman

“Good architecture should call for the minimum use of materials for the most interesting and functional enclosure of space”
Lloyd Ruocco FAIA

Born in 1907 and arriving in San Diego in the early 20’s,philosopher architect Lloyd Pietrantonio Ruocco (d. 1981) immersed himself, as a very young man, within the architectural community that thrived in San Diego in the early part of the last century. His first position was as a draftsman in the offices of Richard Requa. Here Ruocco was exposed to the Mediterranean styles that had become immensely popular throughout Southern California. At work in Requa’s office and prior to his graduation from San Diego High School, Ruooco would develop a sensitive respect for siting and specifically the built environments relationship to the outdoors.

Following his graduation from U.C. Berkeley, he would return to San Diego and work within the offices of Requa Jackson as well as William Templeton Johnson. Along the way he would assist on the 1935 Panama Exposition, County Administration Building as well as the master plan for the community of Rancho Santa Fe under the supervision of his high school drafting instructor Lillian Rice.

Growing increasingly dissatisfied with the rehashed revival styles that prevailed through the thirties, Ruocco opened his own offices in hopes of bringing a more modern style of architecture to San Diego. He along with his wife Ilse Hammon Ruocco, an interior designer and artist, would go on to become San Diego’s pioneering post-war modernists. Designing well over 100 projects throughout San Diego County, Lloyd is responsible for several projects that are considered by many, to be some of the areas best examples of the period.

Universally respected as one of San Diego’s fathers of the post war modern architectural movement, Ruocco was equally devoted to the art community as well as the city itself. His ultimate goal was to better the lives of the people of San Diego through his tireless efforts to promote and encourage art, architecture and design; many would say that he achieved his goal. Instrumental in founding several community design organizations, Citzens Coordinate for Century 3, Allied Artists and Allied Craftsmen. Lloyd Ruocco laid the foundation for architects, artists and designers to come.

“He was the person to whom you turned for inspiration. He was the modernist.”
- Bob Mosher FAIA

Early designs (1937-52) were almost without fail exposed redwood with flat but primarily shed roofs. Ruocco made use of indirect lighting above interior sofits, built-in bookshelves frequently running the length of the floor. Fireplaces were built-in and typically stone. Most of the designs of this period made use of concrete floors and in many cases used organic materials in their natural form. Boulders are found piercing glass walls; unmilled lumber is used lavishly in some early designs. In the case of his first residence ‘Ilcavo’, driftwood is used as towel hangers, hardware on doors and in various other forms. Ruocco’s later work although extremely progressive by San Diego standards was similar in design to many other architects practicing throughout Southern California. The early designs seemed indigenous; they were his own. His designs of this period were far less influenced by the design trends occurring in Europe and Los Angeles.

“There is this term, ‘a Ruocco house’. There are a few architects who get to that point but not many”
- Leonard Veitzer FAIA

In the early fifties and following the completion of his second home ‘Solari’ Ruocco seemed to depart in some part from is early more organic designs and began to favor a more sleek style. Possibly inspired by the case study program coordinated by then editor of Arts and Architecture John Entenza, Ruocco began designing glass, wood, steel, and concrete homes based on modular design. This style minimized construction costs as it utilized lumber in standardized dimensions. Designs from this period became architecturally less complex, offering open and often flexible floor plans. Ruocco often included homes with walls that could be moved on tracks to allow space to be modified to accommodate the changing lives of the their inhabitants. These homes nearly all were equipped with radiant heat in the floor, ceiling or both. They most often contained metal prefabricated fireplaces rather than the elaborate stone of his earlier designs. Glass was used even more lavishly than before, exposed wood beams and ceilings were used less often, as plaster ceilings became far more prevalent. Based on post and beam construction methods, these homes are almost always rectangular in design and although many contain extensive built in cabinetry of Ash and Mahogany they seem much more simple and open as compared to the earlier organic designs.

Elements of Design

Buildings were primarily redwood and glass. Preferred concrete floors most notably in early designs. Homes were always sited to maximize views. Home sites were nearly always proposed just below the crest of a slope offering the inhabitant the optimum privacy. This type of siting is what Wright referred to as high braw siting. Preferred Re-sawn lumber for its more natural appearance. Used redwood, red cedar and ash for most of his designs. Post and beam construction provided maximum spaciousness and eliminated the need for load bearing interior walls. Frequently limited interior walls to door height (6’ 8”) and made up difference with fixed glass transoms or clearstory windows. Often worked with difficult sites requiring unique footing and foundation designs. Homes rarely found on flat lots. Red Cedar tongue and groove ceilings and exposed redwood beams were common. Rough sawn redwood board on board siding. Glass panes tend to be sandwiched between post and exterior siding. Showers located at corners of residence allowing for garden views from glass wall enclosures. Use of ‘Suntile’ line of ceramic unglazed tiles made by the Cambridge Tile. Crane and American Standard bathroom fixtures. Some early designs utilized indigenous rock mixed with concrete mortar to produce exterior as well as interior walls.

The Office Transition

As Mr. Ruocco planned for extended international travel in 1960-61, he and Homer Delawie agreed to join in partnership (Homer was a registered/licensed architect so he could run the firm in Ruocco’s absence). The Ruocco & Delawie, AIA office came together and began securing commissions, such as the Senterfit Residence, as Ruocco firmed up his trip. During part of 1960 and 1961, Ruocco was on travel and Delawie began making plans for his own firm. By the time construction began on Senterfit Residence (circa July, 1961), Homer left the partnership along with Ruocco & Delawie, AIA employees Bill Fisher, Frank White, Jack Matteson, and Al Macy among others. The Chernoff Residence was inititiated under the Ruocco & Delawie, AIA office and completed by Ruocco. Delawie clearly gives credit to Ruocco for the project in his FAIA nomination. Some of Ruocco's original employees, like Jack Matteson and Bill Slatton, would later return back to his employment after stints in Delawie's office.

Ruocco Residence #1 'Il Cavo'
Maynard L. Parker, photographer. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

Partial Project List

Amrein Residence (1956)
5020 Yerba Santa Drive, Alvarado Estates

Arenson Residence (1970)
4727 Avion Road
, Alavarado Estates

Avocado Professional Group Medical and Dental Center (1971)
230 Avocado
, El Cajon

Baranov, Nate Residence (1948)
Del Mar

Baranov, Sylvan Residence I (1948)
736 Armada Terrace, Point Loma

Baranov, Sylvan Residence II (1971)
3576 Via Las Flores

Barwick Residence by Lloyd Ruocco. Photo courtesy of Todd Pitman.

Barwick Residence (1955)
3260 Kenora Drive, Spring Valley

Bauman Residence. Photograph by Douglas Simmonds

Bauman, Mr. & Mrs. Henry Residence (1955)
3615 Dorothy Way, College Area

Beers Residence photographed in December 1958

Beers, Mr. & Mrs. Wm. N. Residence (1954, remodeled in 1964)
631 N. Crescent Drive, Mission Hills

Burke, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Residence (ca. 1960)
2322 Hartford Street
*Designed by Ruocco & Delawie, AIA

Burnett, George Residence (early '60s)
3223 Zola Street, Point Loma

Burnett, William Residence (1971)
3576 Via Flores, Point Loma

California Exposition (1935)
Balboa Park

California Steel Building (1965)
Main Street

Chernoff, Howard and Melva Residence (1962)
4522 Trias Street, Mission Hills

City Concourse Plaza (1964)
Front Street, Downtown

Clitsome Residence photograph by Darren Bradley.

Clitsome Residence (1938)
2228 33rd Street, South Park

Cole Residence (1952)
Briercrest section of La Mesa

County Admin Building. (1933)
1600 Pacific Coast Highway

*Detailing only

Lloyd Ruocco at The Design Center. Photo taken in 1959. Courtesy of the San Diego History Center

Design Center, The (1949)
3611 5th Avenue, Hillcrest

Edel Residence  (1963)
1317 Windridge Drive, El Cajon

Feller Residence (1962)
3377 Charles Street, Point Loma

*Designed by Ruocco & Delawie, AIA

Fortiner, Samuel & Charlotte Residence (1951)
811 Di Giorgio Road, Borrego Springs
*Charlotte Fortiner met, and eventually befriended, Ilse Ruocco at San Diego State College as a student in one of the classes she taught. When the Fortiner’s original home on the ranch property burned to the ground, they asked Lloyd to design them a new home. Pictured in a 1951 Redbook article, the young couple discuss the house as they preview Ruocco’s drawings. Lloyd would return to the project in 1961 adding a master bedroom.

Garden Villa Exposition House (1953)
Balboa Park
*Temporary exposition house, later rebuilt as part of Solari

Greene, Ethel Residence (1946)
Helix Street, Spring Valley

Grossmont Spec House (1969)
5609 Lakewood Drive
, La Mesa
Also referred to as the Ishikawa Residence

Herrera Residence (1970)
1108 Dawnridge Ave, El Cajon

Hillside House (1960)
3343 Poe Street, Point Loma

*Designed by Ruocco & Delawie, AIA

Holmgren, Richard Residence (1948)
10037 Ward Lane, La Mesa

Institute of Geophysics & Geoplanetary Sciences (1964)
8602 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla

International Center (1971)
UC San Diego

Jacobson Residence. Photograph by Edward Sievers

Jacobson, Mr. & Mrs. Isadore Residence (1948)
9175 Lavell Street, La Mesa

Jackson, Marvin Residence (1949)
4421 Mayapan Drive, El Cajon

Residence for Dr. & Mrs. O.P. Johann (1956). Photographer unknown

Johann, Dr. and Mrs. O.P. Residence (1956)
4511 Miramonte Street

Jones, Mr. Burton I. Residence (1949)
9830 Edgelake Drive, La Mesa

Kaye, Peter Residence (1956)
240 Ocean View Avenue, Del Mar

Keller Residence #1 (1942)
3039 F Avenue, National City

Keller Residence #2 (1947)
1433 Puterbaugh Street, Mission Hills

The Keller Residence (#3). Photograph by John Oldenkamp

Keller Residence #3 (1963)
9405 La Jolla Farms Road, La Jolla

KOGO-AM/FM/TV (1958)
47th & Highway 94, San Diego

Lange, Mitchell & Marian Residence (1951)
6051 Folsom Drive

Lemon Avenue Elementary (1957)
8787 Lemon Avenue, La Mesa

Libby Residence (1965)
La Jolla

Lillie Residence (1958)
4410 Carmen Drive
, La Mesa

Linton, Russ Residence (1955)
2524 44th Street

Mills Office Building (1964)
4th & Nutmeg

Mitchell, Alfred Residence (1937)
1500 Block of 31st Street
, South Park

Montgomery Memorial Park (1962)

Nelson Residence (1958)
630 N. Crescent Drive, Mission Hills

Park Garden Apartments (1959-1960)
1740 Upas Street
*Ruocco & Delawie, Architects

Pioneer Congregational Church (1966)
4905 Jellett
/2550 Fairfield Street, Clairemont

Private Residence (1954)
1440 Puterbaugh Street, Mission Hills

Private Residence (1972)
Toyon Road

Private Residence (1950)
4351 Ridgeway Drive

Private Residence (1945)
7100 Lakewood Drive

Private Residence (1962)
7245 Rue de Roark

Private Residence (1960)
9155 Wister
, La Mesa

Private Residence (1950)

Private Residence (1952)
3252 Hawk Street, Mission Hills

Private Residence
2417 Pine Street

Private Residence (1959)
2021 Rodelane Street

Private Residence (1949)

Rabinowitz Residence (1952)
2034 Sunset Drive, Mission Hills

O'Connor Residence

O'Connor Residence (1942)
4245 Randolph, Mission Hills

Roberston, Tom Residence (1947)
3920 Pringle Street

Rucker Smith, Mrs. Ruth Duplex (1960)
8015-8017 El Paseo Grande
Designed by Ruocco & Delawie

Ruocco Residence #1 'Il Cavo'
Maynard L. Parker, photographer. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

Ruocco Residence #1 'Il Cavo' (1945)
1900 La Sievida
, La Mesa

Solari. Photograph by Douglas Simmonds

Ruocco Residence #2 'Solari' (1958)
5481 Toyon Road, Alvarado Estates

Salik, Mr and Mrs Charles Residence (1957)
2110 Guy Street, Mission Hills

Sanborn Residence (1949)
Point Loma

San Diego Children's Zoo (1957-1961) including Children's Zoo Entry Dome (1955)

San Diego Civic Theater (1965)
1100 Third Avenue, San Diego

Security First National Bank (1961)
Carlton Hills Road, Santee

Ruocco Residence #1 'Il Cavo'
Maynard L. Parker, photographer. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

Shelton Residence (1964)
1100 Oxford Avenue

Silver Wing

Silver Wing Monument (1946)
Near Silver Wing Recreation Center at
3737 Arey Drive

Southwest Onyx & Marble Co. (1966)
Crosby Street, National City

Spitzer, Lillian Residence (1949)
7256 West Point Avenue, La Mesa

St. Andrews Episcopal

St. Andrews Episcopal Church (1963)
1050 Thomas Street, Pacific Beach

St. Phillips Episcopal Church (1962)
Hardy Road

Upas Garden Apartments (1960)
1740 Upas Street, Hillcrest
*Designed by Ruocco & Delawie, AIA

U.S. Navy Lounge & Bar (1966)
Ream Field

Watts Office Building (1964)
2970 Main Street

Wexler, Sidney & Henrietta Residence (1964)
10088 Sierra Vista, La Mesa

Yates Residence (1959)
15187 Las Planideras Road, Rancho Santa Fe

Ruocco Residence #1 'Il Cavo'
Maynard L. Parker, photographer. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA