Irving J. Gill: New Architecture For A Great Country


Irving J. Gill: New Architecture For A Great Country

September 24, 2016 – March 31, 2017

Architect Irving J. Gill was a San Diego architect, by way of Chicago, who relished the opportunity to work in this city during the end of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  He saw San Diego as a blank slate with great potential. Inspired by the coast and canyons, sunlight and shadows, Gill created a new design language, what we now call modern architecture. His simple, block-like designs offered simplicity, clean lines, and efficiency at a time when faux-Victorian and Spanish Colonial architecture were mainstream. Once sought after by many of San Diego elites like, Ellen Browning Scripps and Melville Klauber, his legacy was largely overlooked after his death.

San Diegans today may not know the name Irving Gill, but they are, perhaps unknowingly, aware of his influential and livable architecture.  From the home of Ellen Browning Scripps (today’s Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla), to the Bishop’s School in La Jolla, to the Sacred Heart Church in Coronado, the Marston House in Balboa Park, the Americanization School in Oceanside, and the Barona Indian Reservation in Lakeside. Gill’s designs made a lasting mark on San Diego County and the influence architects and their clients to this day.

Visit the History Center’s exhibition Irving J. Gill: New Architecture for a Great Country to learn more about this fascinating and sometimes misunderstood individual who helped create in a new style of architecture revered throughout the world, but one that originated right here in San Diego.

The San Diego History Center thanks the following sponsors for their support:

Presenting Sponsors:

RJC Architects | Cisterra Development | Manchester Financial Group | R. E. Staite Engineering Inc.
Artworks San Diego | Turner ConstructionCarrier Johnson + Culture | Hughes Marino 

The Gilbert J. Martin Foundation


Alison Whitelaw  |  DCI Engineers  |  Hal Sadler, FAIA  |  Ike Klingerman Barkley  |  Cindy & Jeff Cavignac  |  JWDA
Keith York,  |  Michael Wall Engineering  |  PCL Construction  |  Union Bank

Gill Exhibition Curator’s Statement

Irving J. Gill, Architect

Irving J. Gill is San Diego’s greatest and most famous architect. His ideas worked their way through Southern California, the United States, and eventually reached across the Atlantic Ocean to influence European architecture. This exhibition, and the many related shows that are a part of the Gill Exhibition Collaborative around Southern California, explore the life and work of this extraordinary man, his architecture, the context in which he lived and created in, and his lasting and far reaching legacy.

In these exhibitions you will see how the search for a truly American architecture started on the East Coast where Gill grew up, took root in the Midwest where Gill learned his craft, and then flowered in Southern California where Gill launched an architectural approach that eventually engaged with an international audience and a modern spirit.

Irving J. Gill, or Jack, the name he preferred, was a humble man. He worked as most artists do, from an internal passion and drive. His life was about his work and his art. He may not have approved of the fanfare this exhibition brings to his legacy. It is, however, well deserved. Few architects have opened a door to ideas and designs that would last for over a century.

James B. Guthrie, AIA


Our gears are turning as we plan for this exciting exhibition!

Concrete had been used since ancient times, but it wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that the addition of iron reinforcement was used to greatly improve concrete’s strength as a structural material. By 1900 architects and engineers were doing many experiments with this new material. In 1907 Robert Aiken, an engineer from Illinois, invented a way of forming and building reinforced cement walls on rotating tables that could then tilt the wall into place.

Irving J. Gill used this technique in his designs for homes and it was employed during the construction of the La Jolla Woman’s Club. To the right is a video of a working model of the La Jolla Women’s Club.

Jazz Radio 88.3 KSDS San Diego, “Inside Art” with Dave Drexler


Collaborators of this multi-site exhibition

This comprehensive multi-site exhibition explores and celebrates the legacy, life, and pioneering architectural work of San Diego architect Irving John Gill (1870-1936), considered to be one of the founders of modern architecture.

Collaborating with The San Diego History Center are the following exhibition partners:

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San Diego Architectural Foundation



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Art, Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara



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Follow the Irving Gill exhibition on Facebook
for public programming, panels, lectures, architectural tours, and newly produced publications associated with this exhibition.


Thank you to ArtWorks San Diego for your support of the collaborative exhibitions!