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Take artful respite atop Kendrick Bangs Kellogg’s fantastical Joshua Tree masterpiece.

In April, 1955, Kendrick Bangs Kellogg was off to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in Arizona, where the University of Colorado student had been fully moved by Wright’s concept of design evolving from its own context. Two years later, San Diegan Russell Babcock had Kellogg—then at Berkeley—design a copper-roof triangular house in Mission Beach in lieu of building the structure that Lloyd Wright designed for them over in Mission Valley. A career was born.

Kellogg’s grounded yet soaring engineering feats and painstaking detailing have developed as a flavor of architecture that is in organic harmony with the nature of the site. (If iconoclast John Lautner’s mise en place bears any resemblance, he, too, was a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright’s.) Today, attention is lavished upon Kellogg’s designed and hands-on built arching domes (Onion House, Kona, 1962), petal-like solar panels (Yen House, La Jolla, 1979) and swooping lines (The Charthouse, Palm Springs, 1977).

Then, there’s the Doolittle House, pictured here, a stunning 1988 commission in Joshua Tree for artists Bev and Jay Doolittle (now listed with TTK Represents; organicmodernestate.com). A fossil-like natural rust gate hails entry to an asymmetrical, almost inconceivable mass of concrete, stone, copper and glass. Built into the boulders, 26 columns support overlapping concrete plumes with pockets of glass in between. The house blends so deftly that it could be mistaken for a skeletal creature. Inside, two decades’ worth of intricate crafting by John Vugrin has yielded pieces such as an elaborate marble sink, a copper fireplace and a glass-topped “vertebrae” table. From outside terraces, the view is a vast horizon of high desert. The effect, in whole, has all the mystery of a Peruvian Nazca line. Is it primitive? Is it futuristic? You decide.

By Alison Clare Steingold.
Photographed by Lance Gerber.

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