From Paradise Cove in Malibu.
PHOTOGRAPH BY SCOTT FRANCES / COURTESY OF SCOTT MTCHELL STUDIO
Scott Mitchell never imagined architecture as a career. Perhaps that’s why his path didn’t start with a draft table but in a chemistry lab.
“I started my first year at [Texas A&M University) with pre-med,” Mitchell says. “I didn’t like biochemistry, which is why I made a transition to the College of Architecture. I don’t really remember what the reasons were. I think it was a photography class. This class was also the reason why I went to the Kimbell Art Museum. That stimulated my awareness of architecture. It shifted my thinking and opened up possibilities.”
Over two decades, Mitchell has completed more than 40 projects, and some of them have been for recognizable names like Jeffrey Katzenberg, Larry Ellison, David Geffen, and Barbara Streisand.
He shares eight of those projects in the book, Scott Mitchell Houses, which he will sign during an appearance April 10-11 at Just Fabulous in Palm Springs as part of Modernism Week 2021. Just Fabulous will have a table set up in its back courtyard area. To register to have your book signed, visit eventbrite.com.
Palm Springs Life spoke further with Mitchell about his inspirations and the book.
PHOTOGRAPH BY STEVE SHAW
Scott Mitchell will sign copies of his book April 10-11 at Just Fabulous in Palm Springs.
Who or what was your biggest inspiration to become an architect?
I think my biggest inspiration was seeing the work of Louis I. Kahn. In particular, I visited the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. That was eye opening for me.
Who influenced you most in your work? What was it about their work that you connected to personally?
Rudolph M. Schindler, the Austrian born American architect who defined modern architecture in southern California impacted my work. He taught me something through his work. That is a really important tenet of my work, which is the juxtaposition of heavy masonry, mass married against light, glass window and door systems, wood and glass or steel and glass. There's something about this psychologically where you can manipulate space where you feel safe. It is almost in a way that appeals to the primal part of your humanity. As in caveman days, we had a sense of safety in the cave where we could watch what is outside, but our back was protected. Some of this is very fundamental, basic psychology that is really important, I think, to create an experience of architecture.
What inspired you to create a book about your work and your designs?
It took me 20 years of practice to get enough work and projects done to make a book. I wanted to show work what I was proud of. If I have greater exposure in the right way, that will give me more opportunities to plan and build good buildings in the future.
What do you hope people take away from the book?
I hope people will get some sense of being elevated psychologically, emotionally, and the most important, spiritually. I hope they will have these feelings after seeing and experiencing my buildings, designs, and compositions. If the book in some ways is inspiring in that way, that would make me really happy.
What inspirations does the desert landscape give to architectural design?
I think that minimalism, especially, really marries well with the canvas of the desert because the desert landscape is, in itself, a minimal landscape These very simple, minimal structures are very well-suited for the desert. But as you can see, the vast amount of houses in Palm Springs aren’t like Albert Frey’s little house [Frey House II] up on the hill. They are in a neighborhood. That isn’t quite as utopic as a house that is interacting with the native desert environment.
PHOTOGRAPH BY TREVOR MEIN
From the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Are you surprised at the success of Modernism Week? Why do you think it’s one of the most attended events in the area under normal circumstances?
I think Palm Springs has historically been a safe haven for experimental architecture as has been it's nearby neighbor, Los Angeles. It is unrestrained by the precedent of history as are many places in Europe, for example. There's a freedom to explore and experiment with new styles and Palm Springs, you had a real sort of talented group of architects that came to practice there because they were drawn to the desert. It seems like an answer to your question, I think, is the fact that Modernism Week is thriving in Palm Springs, grows out of the DNA, the keys that were planted by the early modernists who came like Rudolph M. Schindler and Albert Frey.