Leonard Veitzer, FAIA
Following his passion for skillfully drawing airplanes in high school drafting classes, Veitzer pursued an aeronautical engineering track at Cal-Berkeley. But looking over the shoulders of fraternity brothers majoring in architecture, including Ray Kappe, Veitzer was increasingly impressed by the beautiful and creative work coming off their boards. He liked what he saw and he knew he had the talent to do that as well. It was 1948 and this was his first glimpse into the emerging modernist movement. He was hooked. Veitzer decided to change majors.
He did, and during that summer worked in San Diego for a journeyman drafting service (where he came to be able to do a complete set of working drawings for a house in four days). Subsequent summers he worked as well for several local architects.
Being drafted into the US Army during the Korean War after just two years in the architecture program turned out to be the best of good fortunes. He was assigned to teach at a small base in Japan between Tokyo and Yokohama. This afforded him the opportunity to easily explore the country and to appreciate the Japanese way of life, especially its connection to nature, in its art, architecture and the activities of daily life. It was a life-altering year-and-a-half.
to Cal in 1954, Mr. Veitzer took a brief summer job with Fred Liebhardt
in a rustic cottage overlooking La Jolla cove. During their many conversations
together, they admired the purity and simplicity of the Japanese approach
to design, and shared as well a passion for contemporary architecture.
Modernism had become the new wave, but most of the faculty at Cal were the old guys, there since before the war (WW2) and steeped in the beaux-arts tradition. But to their everlasting credit and without stylistic dogma, they taught and emphasized only the most fundamental principles of design, those which could and should be applied to any “style.” Principles such as proportion, scale, unity, variety, texture, color, composition and relationship of parts to the whole. And the critiques were always valid and to the point, regardless of the students’ design philosophy. Mr. Veitzer and his classmates were the fortunate beneficiaries of this program. At the same time, students greatly admired and were influenced by the leading modern architects of the region, luminaries like Bernard Maybeck, William Wurster, Vernon DeMars, Warren Callister, Jack Hillmer, Joseph Esherick, Harwell Hamilton Harris, Anshen and Allen, Bernardi and Emmons, Mario Ciampi and others.
After graduating from Cal-Berkeley Cum Laude, Veitzer worked briefly in Berkeley and then began traveling around the country. As an experienced draughtsman, he could get a job anywhere, and did. New Orleans, because it is New Orleans. Sarasota, Florida because if was then a hotbed of new architecture, led by Paul Rudolph. New York, as assistant designer for Harrison & Abramovitz on the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center. Then back to San Diego in 1958 and a position with Dale Naegle in La Jolla.
Veitzer was filled with an almost religious zeal for architecture and was impatient to design his own buildings, and having become licensed in 1960, opened a small office on Fifth and Upas near Hillcrest. He launched his practice with the first office building in Mission Valley (later remodeled horribly) and a house for an old army buddy. Roy Wieghorst’s home overlooking El Cajon, the first of two Leonard would design for him, remains intact in the hands of the original owner. Veitzer’s early influences are evident in the way the house is unobtrusively set into the hillside between two parallel rock retaining walls, the low pitched shake roof, rough-sawn cedar siding inside and out, extensive use of glass, and rock walls quarried from the site. Other notable projects from 1960-1963 were the Rust House in Coronado (also remodeled horribly) and a city recreation club remodel and addition in East San Diego.
In 1963, Veitzer closed his office for lack of work and joined the larger firm of Robert Mosher and Roy Drew. During his two years there, he was the principal designer of San Diego State’s Aztec Center and a startling high rise apartment building designed for 1200 Prospect Street in La Jolla that was never built.
The office of Architect Leonard Veitzer AIA reopened again on Fifth Avenue, this time in Lloyd and Ilse Ruocco’s Design Center Building. He became very close friends with the Ruoccos, a pioneering and influential couple who were at the forefront of post-war modernism in San Diego. They would often engage in long and spirited discussions about architecture, environment and the responsibilities of architects to society. The Design Center in those days was a nexus for creative professions -- architects, landscape architects, photographers, graphic designers, advertising and modeling agencies, and even a bohemian barber who was also a very talented portrait painter there in her shop. Veitzer’s practice flourished in this environment for 20 years with larger projects, including hundreds of student housing units, medical and science buildings at UCSD. And from 1969-1976, he was a part-time adjunct professor in the Art Department at San Diego State University teaching architecture to interior design students.
In 1997, Veitzer was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects, an honor bestowed to less than one percent of American architects. He continues a modest, part-time practice from his home studio.
Partial list of San Diego Projects
Bazaar del Mundo
Beers Residence (2002)
Beth El (1979)
East San Diego
Shuffleboard Club (1963)
Frandsen House (1956)
Goodwin Residence (1998)
Laventhol Residence (2006)
Office Building (1961)
of Medical and Dental Assistants (1972)
UCSD 200 Unit
Married Student Housing (1975)
Care Facility (1987)
UCSD Center for
Magnetic Recording Research (1984)
Testing Lab (1984)
College 225 Unit Student Housing (1983)
143 Unit Student
Residence #1 (1960)
Residence #2 (1989)