Craig Ellwood — A Vision of Architecture

Craig Ellwood was the name of an architectural and construction company founded in California in the 1940’s by Jon Nelson Burke and three others. The name ‘Craig Ellwood’ is fictitious having been borrowed from a liquor store near Ellwood’s offices.

Ellwood’s work reflects an established movie industry in California and parallels an interest in the personification of architecture by Ellwood — the birth of starchitecture.

As a result of its success, Burke changed his name to Craig Ellwood reflecting a recognition of his brand value. His charismatic nature and interest in Hollywood made him known as the Cary Grant of his profession.

California’s movie industry in the 1940’s embodied an environment of commercial creativity and self-promotion and Ellwood understood how this might apply to his architecture. His manifesto is based on buildings that reflect their age and no more so does Ellwood’s production of architecture reflect an age of Hollywood modernity.

Architecture, by its own nature, must certainly be more than an expression of an idea. Art in architecture is not arbitrary stylism or ethereal symbolism, but rather the extent to which a building can transcend from the measurable into the immeasurable. The extent to which a building can evoke profound emotion. The extent to which a building can spiritually uplift and inspire man while simultaneously reflecting the logic or the technique which alone can convey its validity to exist.- Craig Ellwood, Los Angeles, Oct. 1975.

Ellwood married Gloria Henry in 1942, an actress best-known for her role as Alice Mitchell, the mother of Dennis from the TV series Dennis the Menace. His active participation in the world of film and television is not by coincidence. Neil Jackson’s book on Ellwood reflects this nature.

It was the need to succeed, and to be seen to succeed, which, more than anything, drove Craig Ellwood. If he had not succeeded in architecture, he would no doubt have succeeded in something else: indeed, he moved from architecture to painting with barely a pause. — Neil Jackson

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Art Center College of Design by Craig Ellwood. Image from Art Centre College of Design

Art Center College of Design by Craig Ellwood. Image from Art Centre College of Design[/caption]

Art Center College of Design by Craig Ellwood. Image from Art Centre College of Design

The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena is Craig Ellwood’s largest project. Burke never trained as an architect and was not licensed to practice. The art centre is mainly attributed to James Tyler, who had worked for John Sudden, who in turn had worked with Mies van der Rohe. None the less, Ellwood’s perfectly pitched role as master producer firmly entrenched him as the leader of his trademark vision.

Ellwood was inventive and above all an energetic leader. He retired to Italy in 1977 where he continued a creative life of painting. He died in 1992.

Featured Image: Craig Ellwood The Art Center College of Design Pasadena — found on SOCKS