Architecture

Streamline Modern San Diego

Modern Spec Bungalow by E.J. Christman

Holding close to sensibilities leveraged by Bauhaus architects, Streamline Modern's curved surfaces and absence of ornament can closely be aligned with the International Style

By Keith York
Modern Spec Bungalow by E.J. Christman

While some like to call it ‘Art Moderne’, Streamline Modern was an evolutionary step in architecture bridging the gap between Art Deco and what has become known as mid-century modern. These wonderful, white painted stucco, simple buildings appear as descendants of Irving Gill’s later period designs with a nautical twist including chrome hardware, steel railings and round, porthole-like, windows.

As designers stripped Art Deco of its ornament, a nod to scientific thought and constructivism has helped us understand ‘streamlining’ in design. Streamlining is often attributed to industrial design by Walter Dorwin Teague, Raymond Loewy, Norman Bel Geddes and Gilbert Rohde and its application to appliances, furniture, automobiles, ships and trains of the era. The reductive use of smooth interior plasters and exterior stucco often make the structures appear to be aero- and hydrodamically efficient. Decades later, you can see how practitioners replaced the ornament and often sharp angles of Art Deco with simpler, smoother lines while the more austere era following the Great Depression saw concrete and glass replace the rare hardwoods and careful detailing found decades earlier.

Holding close to sensibilities leveraged by Bauhaus architects, the curved surfaces and absence of ornament can closely be aligned with the International Style – where architects like Richard Neutra’s 1930s homes opened up to the landscape through horizontal bands of windows and reductive purity. Often steel was utilized to broaden interior spaces and reduce structural surfaces to allow for more glass.

Emerging in the 1930s across the U.S., Streamline Modern designs can be found in San Diego up through the 1940s. From rounded corners to walls of glass block, there are often easy signatures dictating the stylistic reference from the street.

Partial List of Projects

Clitsome Residence (1938)
2228 33rd Street
Designed by Lloyd Ruocco

Commercial Building (1937)
301 University Avenue

Golden Hill Café
2505 C Street, San Diego

Modern Spec Bungalow (ca. 1939-1942)
415 Third Street, National City
Designed by E.J. Christman

Modern Spec Bungalow (1942)
505 Third Street, National City
Designed by E.J. Christman

Modern Spec Bungalow (1939)
440 2nd Street, National City
Designed by E.J. Christman

Modern Spec Bungalow (1940)
441 E. Third Street, National City
Designed by E.J. Christman

Modern Spec Bungalow (1944)
703 F Avenue, National City
Designed by E.J. Christman

Modern Spec Bungalow (1937)
707 F Avenue, National City
Designed by E.J. Christman

Modern Spec Bungalow (1952)
717 F Street, National City
Designed by E.J. Christman

Multifamily Housing (1937)
1910 Robinson Avenue
Designed by Owen King

Multifamily Housing (ca. 1950)
429,435, 437and 445 West Elm Street
Designed by Owen King

North Park Baptist Church (1935)
3810 Bancroft Street
Designed by J.S. Groves

Private Residence (1939)
10755 Puebla Drive, La Mesa

Private Residence (1936)
3112 Curtis Street

Private Residence (1936)
3037 28th Street

Private Residence (1937)
2505 Willow Street

Private Residence (1937)
1855 Willow Street

Private Residence (1937)
2848 Kalmia Place

Private Residence (1938)
1925 Willow Street

Private Residence (1938)
3529 Browning Street

Private Residence (1938)
3311 Xenophon

Private Residence (1938)
1925 Willow Street

Private Residence (1938)
8949 Alpine Avenue, La Mesa

Private Residence (1938)
5877 Estelle Street

Private Residence (1938)
6037 Carol Street

Private Residence (1939)
11116 Akron Street

Private Residence (1939)
8276 Golden Avenue, Lemon Grove

Private Residence (1941)
8463 Golden Avenue, Lemon Grove

Private Residence (1940)
3504 Dumas

Private Residence (1941)
4573-77 Maryland Street

Private Residence (1941)
4391 Middlesex Drive

Private Residence (1942)
4388 Middlesex Drive

Private Residence (1944)
1977 Sunset Cliffs

Private Residence (1947)
4754 Santa Cruz Avenue, Ocean Beach
*2nd Story Addition circa 1975-1988

Private Residence (1949)
1005 Alexandria Avenue

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