Architect and Dwell on Design Los Angeles speaker Cory Buckner’s forthcoming book, Crestwood Hills: The Chronicle of a Modern Utopia, revisits the obstacles faced by the Mutual Housing Association (MHA) in 1947, as they worked to develop a utopian, post–World War II community in Brentwood, California. The struggling Crestwood Hills project (originally called the Mutual Housing Tract) eventually put the MHA on the map as the only successful large-scale modern housing cooperative in the west. The cooperative hired Southern California modernist architects A. Quincy Jones and Whitney R. Smith to design 28 floor plans to offer its members.
Schneidman House and owner, Kristin MacDowell (MHA 301).
In 1946, a group of returning servicemen began talks of creating a housing cooperative to build a utopian community on a dusty hillside above Los Angeles. Soon, more than 400 families were on board, and the Mutual Housing Association was born.
Roy and Patricia Hamma enjoy time in their living room, furnished with Charles and Ray Eames pieces. Once the couple's MHA 111 model was complete, Roy Hamma, an attorney, hired a professional photographer to document their newly built home, which was one of the original 30 “guinea pig” properties.
The MHA cooperative purchased 800 acres of land on the Brentwood side of the Santa Monica Mountains and worked with modernist architects A. Quincy Jones and Whitney R. Smith and structural engineer Edgardo Contini to build 350 homes. Only 85 houses from the original Jones/Smith plans actually saw the light of day.
Carport of Arens House (MHA 104).
Los Angeles architect Cory Buckner found great interest in the Crestwood Hills project when she and her late husband, architect Nick Roberts, purchased and restored one of the houses, which was built in 1949. She has since spearheaded a preservation movement of the community tract, prompting the City of Los Angeles to designate 19 of the homes as historic cultural monuments.
Gross House entrance (MHA 111).
Buckner’s Crestwood Hills book shares more than 200 vintage and contemporary images of the homes and many of the original floor plans. The Brentwood-Bel Air fire of 1961 destroyed more than half of the 85 midcentury modern homes that were built.
Schneidman House dining room (MHA 301).
Cory Buckner will speak on the Crestwood Hills project and her book at Dwell on Design Los Angeles 2015, during the weekend of May 29-31. She will also sign copies of the beautifully designed book, which is set to release on March 21.