In this special edition of The Finest City, we take a deep dive into the history of San Diego’s extraordinary community of mid-century modern designers, architects, artists, and progressive thinkers. On June 16, 2020, host Sara Fakhoury interviewed archivist Todd Pittman and curator Dave Hampton about San Diego’s homegrown modernist architect Lloyd Ruocco. This is the first in a series of interviews conducted as part of our 60th anniversary oral history project in partnership with the San Diego History Center.
[2:06] Sara introduces Lloyd Ruocco’s archivist, Todd Pittman, and curator Dave Hampton. They discuss where they were born, where they reside currently, and give us a glimpse into their background in design.
[9:46] Todd and Dave discuss how they discovered Ruocco and the mid-century design community in San Diego.
[14:16] A substantial portion of Lloyd’s archive was lost, while some of it was given to the historical society.
[16:58] Mid-century modern architecture and furniture were well documented in LA and people knew the names of architects, but that wasn’t always the case in San Diego. Todd and Dave discuss feeling like there was a mission to historize Lloyd’s work.
[18:51] Todd talks about Lloyd’s early life, childhood schooling, mental development, and his partnership with his wife Ilsa. Lloyd’s blue-collar background helped him later in his hands-on approach to architecture and creating designs with his very own hands.
[23:05] Lloyd was known to encourage others to stop looking backward and looking forward in our design.
[29:46] How did Frank Lloyd Wright influence San Diego’s regional modernism?
[34:00] In Lloyd’s homes, you can go up to the street and you may not see a house at all. You may look right over the house and see a blank wall because the experience was set to highlight the space around it, not to show a home off for its curb appeal.
[38:00] Sarah, Todd, and Dave discuss how the natural landscape and environment influenced Lloyd’s design.
[44:01] Todd and Dave share their version of the C3 Founding story. Lloyd was doing the same thing that C3 was founded for, many years prior.
[46:32] Todd and Dave discuss English planner Ebenezer Howard and the varied response to his garden city movement.
[51:13] Citizen activism in community planning is crucial, and the homeowner’s advocacy needs to be maintained.
[54:12] Lloyd and Ilse were a team, and they also recognized the importance of community. They used their own home in La Mesa as a meeting spot and knew that success was a group effort.
[1:02:09] Dave recaps a few of the key people Lloyd and Ilsa brought in to be part of their experience and share their efforts to promote contemporary in all its creative facets in San Diego, to bring more intention and strength in the creative community.
[1:13:25] Where did Lloyd’s goal to better the lives of people in San Diego begin? The belief that people should be able to own their own home, walk to work safely, and take immense pride in their land.
[1:17:02] What was he trying to address by calling the cultural community to engage in civic planning and urban design?
[1:29:09] What was Ilse’s contribution? Education, influential taste, connections, memorable design, community connection, and much more.
[1:33:07] Todd and Dave discuss how San Diego State has many important threads in the story of Lloyd and Ilsa.
[1:38:42] Lloyd’s designs including IGPP and the Design Center are homey and comfortable, along with their beauty. Why was Lloyd’s style so unique and hard to trace?
[1:44:03] San Diego will hopefully start embracing the creative spirit that comes from its own community, and Lloyd was a great example of what it looks like to think progressively and always be looking ahead.
In its 60 years of existence, Citizens Coordinate for Century 3 (C-3) has brought together local thought leaders from planning, design, policy, academia,