Lloyd Pietrantonio Ruocco

Architect | 1907-1981
Lloyd and Ilse Ruocco in their 'Il Cavo' house in La Mesa (ca. 1949) Photograph by Edward Sievers

As a young man Lloyd Ruocco worked alongside Richard Requa, William Templeton Johnson and Lillian Rice. His early designs (1937-52) were almost without fail exposed redwood with flat but primarily shed roofs. These designs, organizations he fostered, and talent he mentored led him to garner respect as a key figure in 20th century modernism in the region.

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, Ruocco 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 area’s 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, Citizens 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 soffits, 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, ‘Il Cavo’, 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 sleeker 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 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 simpler and more 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 initiated 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.

Partial Project List

Amrein Residence (1956)
5020 Yerba Santa Drive

Arenson Residence (1970)
4727 Avion Road

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

Baranov, Sylvan Residence I (1949)
763 Armada Terrace

Barwick Residence (1955)
3260 Kenora Drive, Spring Valley

Boughman, Mr. & Mrs. Henry Residence (1955)
5615 Dorothy Way

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

Bleecker, Frank E. and Mae I. Residence (1942-49)
9830 Edgelake Drive, La Mesa

Boss Residence (1968)
9434 Sierra Vista, Mt. Helix

Burke, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Residence (1960)
2322 Hartford Street
Ruocco & Delawie, Architects

Burnett Residence #1 (1949)
2417 Pine Street

Burnett, George Residence (1960)
3223 Zola Street

Burnett, William Residence (1971)
3576 Via Flores

Burnett’s Furniture Chula Vista (1955)
345 E Street, Chula Vista

Burnett’s Furniture San Diego (1955)
633 University Avenue

California Steel Building (1965)
Main Street

Chernoff, Howard Residence (1960)
4522 Trias Street
Ruocco & Delawie, Architects

City Concourse Plaza (1964)
1964 Front Street

Clitsome Residence (1938)
2228 33rd Street

Cole Residence (1952)
5628 Nokomis

Commercial Building (1951)
145 Washington Street

County Admin Building. (1933)
1600 Pacific Coast Highway
With Requa, Johnson, Gill, Hammill

Crates, Dennis Residence (1948)
4436 Lister Street

Creel Residence (1950)
1149 Franciscan Way

Cunningham Residence (1959)
445 Hidden Pines Road, Del Mar
Ruocco & Delawie, Architects

Design Center, The (1949)
3611 5th Avenue

Dodd Residence (1952)
8520 Boulder Drive

Edel Residence (1962)
1317 Windridge Drive, El Cajon

Feller Residence (1960)
3377 Charles Street
Ruocco & Delawie, Architects

Fortiner, Samuel & Charlotte Residence (1949)
811 Di Giorgio Road, Borrego Springs
Published in Redbook in 1951

Freedman Residence (1952)
620 Albion

Garden Villa Model Home (1953)
Balboa Park
Temporary exposition house, later disassembled

Gilchrist Residence (1959)
2021 Rodelane Street

Goldberg, Edward & Betty Residence (1957)
2614 Ellentown

Goodman Residence (1953)
2414 Marylouise

Green Residence (1949)
2847 Arnott

Greene, Ethel Residence (1946)
2940 Helix Street, Spring Valley

Herrera Residence (1970)
1108 Dawnridge Ave, El Cajon

Hillside House (AKA Mr. and Mrs. Robert N. Foster) (1960)
3343 Poe Street
Ruocco & Delawie, Architects

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

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

Ishikawa, Wesley & Margaret Residence (1968-69)
9141 Wakarusa Street, La Mesa
AKA Grossmont Spec House

Jacobson, Mr. & Mrs. Isadore Residence (1949)
9175 Lavell Street, La Mesa

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

Jackson Scott Tract Designs (1949)
Various Streets, Point Loma

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

Johnson Residence (1961)
8272 El Paseo Grande

Judd Residence (1952)
3527 Lark Street

Kaye, Peter Residence (1957)
240 Ocean View Avenue, Del Mar

Keller Residence #1 (1944)
3039 F Avenue, National City

Keller Residence #2 (1947)
1433 Puterbaugh Street

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

KOGO-AM/FM/TV (1958)
4600 Air Way

Lamplighter, The (1955)
827 Washington Street

Lange, Mitchell & Marian Residence (1948)
6051 Folsom Drive

Lard Residence (1961)
2218 Vallecitos

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

Libby Residence (1969)
7846 Esterel

Lillie Residence (1958)
4410 Carmen Drive, La Mesa

Linton, Russ Residence (1955)
2524 44th Street, City Heights

Luci Residence (1966)
1649 Lugano Lane, Del Mar

Lutz Residence(1950)
1360 Pine Street, El Cajon

Martin Residence (1955)
4472 Arista

Medical Center for Gifford Enterprises (1960)
El Cajon & 71st Street
Ruocco & Delawie, Architects

Mills Office Building (1964)
408 Nutmeg

Mitchell, Alfred Residence (1937)
1506 31st Street
With Richard Requa

Moats Residence (1952)
2833 Three Peaks Lane, Julian

Monteverde Residence (1960)
9155 Wister
Ruocco & Delawie, Architects

Montgomery Memorial Park (1962)
3020 Coronado Avenue, San Ysidro

Nelson Residence (1958)
630 N. Crescent Drive

Northcutt Residence (1950)
805 1st Street, Coronado

O'Conner-Robertson Residence (1942)
4245 Randolph

Palisades Restaurant (1935)
Del Prado
With Richard Requa

Park Estate Company (1950)
8371 La Mesa Blvd

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

Phil Swing Memorial Fountain (1964)
Front Street

Pioneer Congregational Church (1966)
4905 Jellett

Private Residence (1950)
10315 Lariat Lane, La Mesa

Private Residence (1951)
9068 Madison, La Mesa

Private Residence (1945)
7100 Lakewood Drive, La Mesa

Private Residence (1954)
Harbison Canyon, La Mesa

Rabinowitz Residence (1956)
2034 Sunset Drive

Ricketson Residence (1960)
11819 Johnson Lake Road, Lakeside
Ruocco & Delawie, Architects

Robertson, Tom Residence (1947)
3920 Pringle Street

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

Ruocco, Rafael Guest House #1 (1939)
8707 Ruocco Road, Santee

Ruocco, Rafael Guest House #2 (1939)
8707 Ruocco Road, Santee

Ruocco, Lloyd & Ilse Residence #1 'Il Cavo' (1946)
1900 Lakewood Drive, La Mesa

Ruocco Residence #2 'Solari' (1956)
5481 Toyon Road

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

Sanborn Residence (1949)
765 Bangor Street

Sandell Residence (1959)
2030 Sunset Drive, Mission Hills
Ruocco & Delawie, Architects

San Diego Zoo
Ape House (1958)
Children’s Zoo (1957)
Children's Zoo Entry Geodesic Dome (1957)
Giraffe Mesa (1958)

San Diego Civic Theater (1965)
1100 Third Avenue

Schrock Construction ‘Garden Villa’ (1958)
5861 Box Canyon, La Jolla

Security First National Bank (1961)
9250 Mission Gorge Road, Santee

San Diego Medical Center (1959)
1959 Frost Street
Ruocco & Delawie, Architects

Schulman Residence (1950)
4351 Ridgeway Drive, Kensington

Senterfit Residence (1959)
1414 Franciscan Way
Ruocco & Delawie, Architects

Shaw Residence (1966)
7245 Rue de Roark, La Jolla

Shelton Residence (1964)
Coast Walk

Silver Wing Monument (1946)
3737 Arey Drive, San Ysidro

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

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

Srull Residence (1955)
2156 Mergho Impasse

St. Andrews Episcopal Church (1963)
1050 Thomas Street

St. Phillips Episcopal Church (1962)
2660 Hardy Road, Lemon Grove

Trail Residence (1954)
1440 Puterbaugh Street

U.S. Navy E Street Pier (1949)
E Street

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

Watts Office Building (1964)
2970 Main Street

Wexler, Sidney & Henrietta Residence (1962)
10088 Sierra Vista, La Mesa

Wilken Residence (1950)
5031 Colina Drive, 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

IN ESCROW: The 3-Wishes House by Lloyd Ruocco (1942)

9830 Edgelake Dr La Mesa, CA, 91941 2 Bed 2 Bath $860,000

SOLD: Keller House II by Lloyd Ruocco (1948)

1433 Puterbaugh St San Diego, CA, 92103 3 Bed 3.5 Bath $2,600,000

SOLD: Johann House by Lloyd Ruocco (1956)

4511 Miramonte St La Mesa, CA, 91941 6 Bed 3 Bath $875,000

SOLD: Linton House by Lloyd Ruocco (1955)

2524 44th St San Diego, CA, 92105 2 Bed 4 Bath $460,000

SOLD: Clitsome House by Lloyd Ruocco (1938)

2228 33rd St San Diego, CA, 92104 2 Bed 1 Bath $650,000

SOLD: Beers House by Lloyd Ruocco (1957)

631 N Crescent Ct San Diego, CA, 92103 4 Bed 4 Bath $885,000

Ishikawa Residence (1969)

5003 Via Papel San Diego, CA, 92122

Keller Residence III (1963)

9405 La Jolla Farms Rd San Diego, CA, 92037

Herrera Residence (1970)

1108 Dawnridge Ave El Cajon, CA, 92021