"My approach to architecture was as an art."

Jack Hillmer (1918–2007) remains a cult figure in the Bay Area for his eccentric take on modernism, though he was never a licensed architect and completed less than ten buildings over the course of his career.  The Texas-born Hillmer was sent to work as a military draftsman in San Diego during WWII and was profoundly affected by a stay in Rudolph Schindler’s El Pueblo Ribera apartments there.  He later taught at UC Berkeley and cofounded Telesis, a group of Bay Area architects and planners devoted to principles of sustainability and communal collaboration. "One of our major interests was to make the world better," Hillmer told writer Dave Weinstein for SFGate in 2004. "There was an excitement to it. It seemed like anything was possible.”

Fascinated by redwood since his childhood, Hillmer says. "I like to use the wood raw, with no finish on it, so you can see the sheen of the wood, the texture of the wood. Wax destroys the sheen. I prefer no finish at all.”  Hillmer's use of natural materials helped define the Bay Region Style in the years after World War II. He quickly won fame and his homes were featured in architectural publications, popular magazines such as LIFE, and at the San Francisco Museum of Art (as SFMOMA was then known).

All told, Hillmer produced fewer than 10 finished homes - but they have had an inordinate influence because of their purity and beauty, even spirituality.  Hillmer's homes mix a Zen-like simplicity with a baroque richness that comes not from ornamentation but from the beauty of the materials and the way the home interacts with the environment, framing dramatic views and filtering daylight.

Hillmer never applied for an architecture license ("I didn't believe in controlling design"), never sought clients and sometimes rejected those who sought him. "I tried to have a client that I had a similar taste with. To spend so much time with a client -- it's a year or more -- I didn't want to spend that time with someone I didn't like."

Just a few years before his passing, Hillmer elected to celebrate his birthday at his favorite building - the Telesis House.  

If you would like to learn more about Jack Hillmer and his work visit the following links: