Fickett Homes

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”Coming from a family of contractors has taught me to respect the builder, subcontractor and other members of the building team. I can remember at an early age the respect my father elicited from all the building trades responsible for work on the projects he was constructing. The jobs were always better because of this relationship.”
- “Frankly Speaking” article, AIA Journal, September 1961

Professional Biography

Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A. is not only a local treasure, but has a far-reaching effect on the world of architecture. His passion for meeting the needs of the people were paramount to design. The master architect’s work included, custom homes, speculation homes, merchant developer tract homes, multi-unit garden apartments, commercial buildings, parks, libraries, schools, shopping malls, civic buildings, as well as, his skills as a masterful urban planner. His master plans are dappled throughout California, with a concentration in the Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties with tens of thousands of homes designed. With a noted 60,000 homes designed by the architect, his body of work personified California architecture in the 1950s and 1960s, embracing the mid-century modern movement focusing on indoor/outdoor living space and defusing any boundary between the two. The California environment allowed Fickett to open walls and ceilings to the outdoors while providing thoughtful fenestration plans designed around solar gain. Texture and shadow would be contemplated in his design to his modernist designs, as well as the landscaping, hardscaping, pools and tennis courts, including the first cantilevered tennis court. He ultimately earned a reputation as an authority on small home design due to his award-winning floor plan designs created throughout his life.

Fickett began working on large-scale developments because he saw a decline in the quality of designs for moderate-income housing, and he set out to convince local builders of the value of modern features and construction methods that justified hiring an architect for these planned communities. In addition to doing concept designs, Fickett would prepare the plans, gain FHA or VA approval, coordinate with subcontractors, supervise construction, coordinate color schemes, regulate furnishings, and research new materials and methods. Due to the FHA guidelines, Fickett’s designs tended to be within the Minimal Traditional and Ranch style idioms, combining modern interior floor plans with traditional exterior features. He used “simple forms that were both clearly modern and designed for easy, economic construction.”

Synonymous with bringing the outdoors inside, open floor plans, 14-foot ceiling heights, floor-to-ceiling walls of windows, atriums, skylights, post and beam construction, private gardens, carports, pigment-treated concrete, red brick, and one of his signature materials, Mexican Tecate brick. Fickett set the standards for many of his colleagues, not only by his designs but by his knowledge of building materials. Practicality and proficiency were always of concern within his masterful floor-planning skills, while utilizing natural resources and readily available resources for the construction of his architecture. Fickett revolutionized the concept of the “Breakfast Bar”, opening the kitchen to the living area. Shadow boxes, window surrounds, window shading and trellis shading, all helped create texture and pattern from natural solar gain. He also revolutionized sliding closet doors to free-up space breaking away from the swing-door and eliminating waste of space. Fickett was the master in the use of indigenous material and his streamlined techniques to provide economic benefits to both the developer and the prospective buyer.

Fickett began working on large-scale developments because he saw a decline in the quality of designs for moderate-income housing, and he set out to convince local builders of the value of modern features and construction methods that justified hiring an architect for these planned communities. In addition to doing concept designs, Fickett would prepare the plans, gain FHA or VA approval, coordinate with subcontractors, supervise construction, coordinate color schemes, regulate furnishings, and research new materials and methods. Due to the FHA guidelines, Fickett’s designs tended to be within the Minimal Traditional and Ranch style idioms, combining modern interior floor plans with traditional exterior features. He used “simple forms that were both clearly modern and designed for easy, economic construction.”

Teacher, lecturer, a leader within his community of peers, advisor to an American president and most notably recognized American architect where Better Homes and Gardens, 1957 coined Edward H. Fickett as the “Frank Lloyd Wright of the 1950s”. Fickett believed a window only served one purpose, to allow the outdoors into the interior environment. Along with Wright, Fickett stands in good company along with other key 20th Century modernists Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler and A. Quincy Jones who would accompany Fickett on the AIA University Lecture Series speaking to architecture students around the country about the Mid-Century Modern philosophy of design in architecture. Disdainful of the “Cookie-Cutter” home, Fickett’s tract homes had multiple floor plans and present themselves as a collection of modern ranchos with distinctive facades.

Not only were his designs advanced, his ethic to serve the community was never more apparent than with his Master Plans for urban developments in the San Fernando Valley and San Diego areas creating affordable housing for returning veterans and are used as examples of sustainable design in today’s education of architecture. Fickett was determined to give to the veterans of war returning home a palatial retreat fit for a hero. These affordable tract homes were based on the California ranch style of home, but then altered with the mid-century philosophy by adding ceiling heights and working with local materials such as glass, brick and walnut while pushing the boundaries of engineering and design. Allowing the accessibility of these “Fickett Homes” at affordable prices, due to his design engineering and pioneering, allowed for a huge demand.

In 1962, Fickett embarked upon one of his highest achievements in engineering as he designed The Port of Los Angeles (Dock Office Building) (6203). His skills in engineering, developed in the Navy, would lend themselves to one of Fickett’s most engineering-driven designs, the Los Angeles Harbor (Passenger and Cargo Terminals), which at the time was the world’s largest, won him numerous international and local awards. It would be around this time Fickett would also create duplex housing for the Navy at Ponte Vista (6208) in San Pedro. The development has since been vacated, razed and cookie-cuttered by a major builder.

He was the “Master” behind master planning and urban planning. Look for curved streets as it is indicative of his plans. Some notable master plans designed by the architect are Hastings Ranch, Meadowlark Park, Sherman Park, Trousdale Estates, Laguna Niguel, Edwards Air Force Base, Norton Air Force Base and Murphy Canyon Heights Naval Base. His West Hollywood Park master plan (1958-1960) (5807, 5904) won him multiple awards for the multi-structure atomic modern village with Olympic-sized pool (5914) and modernist library (5903) conception of one of the very first libraries to have a wall of glass. The park was conceived in the mid 1950s through a state initiative for more park space.

Edward Hale Fickett, F.A.I.A. Brief Educational and Professional Timeline

May 19, 1916, Born, Los Angeles, CA (Fourth generation Angeleno)

1934 Graduate of Beverly Hills High School, Beverly Hills, CA
1934-1938 Graduate of the University of Southern California School of Architecture, Urban Planning
1935-1938 Sumner Spaulding, F.A.I.A., draftsman
1938-1940 Kirby Ferguson Structural Engineer, draftsman
1937-1940 Art Center School, Los Angeles, CA

1941-1942 Stephan A. Stepanian, A.I.A., designer
1942-1946 United States Navy, Civil Engineering Corps. [Trained at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)]
1945-1949 partner with Francis J. Heusel, AIA (C-253) “Heusel and Fickett, Architects and Engineers”
1946 Junior Associate of Sothern California AIA chapter
1949-1999 private practice “Edward H. Fickett, AIA”

1950 AIA member, Washington, D.C.
1953 20,000 homes designed
1955 Appointed to seven-person Federal Housing Administration Architectural Standards Advisory Committee
1955 35,000 homes designed
1958-1962 Southern California AIA/LA Chapter, President

1962 Southern California AIA, President
1963 40,000 homes designed
1967 City of Los Angeles, Mayor’s Architectural Awards Committee, Chairman
1969 American Institute of Architects, Fellow, Washington, D.C. “Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A.”
1969-1973 Consultant to the British Government on Housing

1977-1986 Architectural Commissioner, Beverly Hills

1999 60,000 homes designed
May 21, 1999, Died, Los Angeles, CA

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Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A. Biographical Timeline Early Years (1916-1942)

As a fourth generation of Los Angeleno home and apartment builders, Fickett was born May 19, 1916 to George E. Fickett, a carpenter builder and Marguerite Hale Fickett. Edward was absorbed in building, real estate, architecture and design through his family and associates who worked within in the building and real estate industry from the moment he was born during World War I. He was of the fourth generation of the family in Los Angeles. He grew up with brothers Rolland H. and Milton H. and sister, Lauren H. in the Rancho Park area of Los Angeles. “Edward H. Fickett as a boy shot jack rabbits on the hills for which he now designs large housing projects. The area of Bovard Park at USC was once part of his grandfather’s ranch. Fickett’s grandfather, Edward Fickett, Sr., in a roundabout way, influenced his design. Fickett St. was named for the same grandfather and on young Edward’s 12th birthday he was presented with 19 lots on Fickett Street. ‘Hang on to these,’ said Grandfather Fickett. ‘Someday they will be very valuable’.” The blight of this area would make a huge impression upon the architect known for his distaste for “the ugly house”. He believed site planning was more important than a costlier home. Tract housing and planning, and poor planning, were always in his sightline, due to his experience as a young man. He, in turn, measured ways to achieve better results with more thoughtful planning, design and construction, culminating in a unison which not only benefits the homeowner, but the entire neighborhood, itself. Fickett went on to graduate from Beverly Hills High School in 1934, where upon he began his academic studies in Urban Planning at the University of Southern California (USC) 1934-1938.

He continued his academic studies at the Art Center School of Los Angeles (1937-1942) where he engaged with the Art Center program’s “practical study” of design with a curriculum advancing advertising, sculpture, painting, drawing, photography and industrial design. Clearly, this was influential as we can see through advertisements and brochures, associated with his work which demonstrate his all-encompassing approach to working with merchant builders and his contributions in advertising and marketing the developments he designed.

Fickett found opportunity of a lifetime in working with Spaulding as a part-time draftsman from 1935 – 1938 and full-time from 1938-1940. Introduced by his father, Fickett found a mentor in Sumner Spaulding. We see Spaulding’s metamorphosis from a classical design aesthetic to a modern design vernacular while the two were working together. Spaulding was the one who encouraged Fickett to attend USC night classes in architecture. During the 1930’s, with The Great Depression crippling incomes, most Americans had to work to support their families and education was an ultimate luxury. It just so happened, both Fickett and Spaulding lived in the Rancho Park area of Los Angeles at the time.

Hence due to the economy in 1932, USC created their night school program where many of our mid-century masters of Southern California attended. The program versed its curriculum, based on a practical approach to design. As noted, the curriculum included architectural design, architectural engineering, rendering & composition, landscape design, sculpture, ceramics, interior decoration and understanding budgeting. Fickett attended USC from 1934 – 1938. Much of Fickett’s work incorporates all of the elements examined within the USC curriculum model. Spaulding, was also one of the talents brought in at USC to educate the young minds of a quickly changing world. The influence of Spaulding should not be underrated, as you will see Fickett following in many of his footsteps with constant contributions to the industry in order to elevate the profession.

One of the courses offered to Fickett in 1937, while attending USC a program was created to study tract housing where the students, along with Fickett, created a new model for developed neighborhoods and methods of master planning, which will be further demonstrated by Fickett later in his work from the later 1940’s with his Hastings Ranch development for Coronet Homes. Due to his mastery of planning, Fickett opted for master plan designs with curved streets and cul-de-sacs. Fickett stayed far away from cookie-cutter designs, as well. He provided more thoughtful developments to his developer clients when he had opportunity to master plan tracts. There is always a civilized and grounded feeling to his work through his use of local materials, along with providing visual variety.

Following his work with Spaulding, Fickett worked with structural engineer, Kirby Ferguson as a draftsman from 1940 – 1941 and with architect Stephen Stepanian as a designer from 1941-1942.

War Years (1942-1946)

In 1942, Fickett began his official service with the United States Navy and the Civil Engineering Corps. Prior to deployment, he worked with the U.S. Army of Engineers and was assistant to Col. Hagenbush, Architect in Charge Camouflage Design, Military/Defense Installations. Once again, the times would influence Fickett’s oeuvre of design through his life experience, as his professional and practical experience enabled him to attend the Navy’s Officers Training School in 1942. Fickett entered the Navy (1942-1946) as an Ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard / U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps. He rose in rank to became Lieutenant Officer in Charge Construction Unit 26, Civil Engineer Corps., which was ultimately tasked with overseeing the construction and management of logistics of five LORAN stations located off the coast of Alaska in the Bering Sea and the Western Aleutians. He would later be transferred from the arctic to the Marshalls Islands in the Central Pacific region in 1943 to prepare the site for a LORAN-A installation. LORAN, its name compounded of the initial letters of the words – Long Range Navigation, is a system whereby a vessel with suitable electronics equipment, comparatively simple to operate, and with special charts may determine its position even when hundreds of miles from shore; as far as approximately 800 miles from the transmitting station in daytime and 1,400 miles at night.

To provide reliable LORAN service from an isolated location, it was necessary that the units be entirely self-sustaining. From experience already gained, it was apparent that a typical station would consist of several buildings. There was need for a building to house the technical apparatus and the communications system, a power hut for the Diesel- electric generators and other parts of the power plant, and a building serving as an office and as quarters for the officers, and two buildings to be used as crew’s quarters, mess hall, galley, and sick bay. In addition, the antenna and ground system for LORAN transmission and receiving consisted of seven 85-foot poles, and various wires and cables. Sewage disposal arrangements, a water system, and other similar items would also need to be provided.

Four Coast Guard Construction Detachments were organized as the program developed, each with a commanding officer and an executive officer, and essential field office personnel. Each detachment was further divided into three sections, each with a commanding officer and technical assistants, to permit simultaneous construction of three stations in a chain at widely separated sites. All officers, including Naval Lieutenant Fickett, were civil engineers and experienced construction men; enlisted personnel were selected for experience and skill in essential trades.

Fickett oversaw Construction Detachment A (Unit 26), which was organized to complete the Bering Sea chain and to construct the Western Aleutians (Alaska) LORAN chain. Subsequently, he, along with Unit 26 would be transferred to the Central Pacific to construct the Marshall Island chain station and later performed the work of converting the previously completed Hawaiian, Phoenix, and Marshall chains from DC to AC power.

The Western Aleutians LORAN-A station went on-air 24-hours/day on February 17, 1944 and the Marshalls went live on December 16. 1944. Again, if it were not for the civil engineers of the Construction Detachment Units, the navigation systems could not be set up. The logistics involved with setting up these sites and the master planning involved, along with man power, materials and working with limited resources were the challenges with which Fickett faced, and overcame with efficiency to provide our intelligence with vital information. By the close of World War II, at least 75,000 receivers had been distributed, as well as 2.5 million LORAN charts. Some 70 transmitters were in operation offering nighttime coverage of over 30 percent of the earth's surface.

Post-War | Heusel and Fickett, Architects and Engineers (1945-1947)

Along with his commitment after the war to find better financing solutions for veterans during the post-war housing boom, Fickett continued building relationships with builders, developers, designers, along with his close affiliation with the National Association of Home Buillders (NAHB). This relationship allowed Fickett the scope of how FHA guidelines could change dynamics, not only for the above mentioned, but most importantly, the buyer; the veterans returning from war.

While finishing duties associated with the U.S. Navy and stationed in Long Beach, Fickett married Lucile Millicent Mull (1925-2008) on May 2, 1944. The newlyweds soon settled into the “Edward H. Fickett Residence No.1, 1945”, a modest home designed by Fickett and located in the Beverly Hills Post Office vicinity, built in 1945. On September 4, 1946, Edward and Lucile welcomed daughter, Cheryl Ann Fickett.

May of 1945, Fickett partnered with architect Francis J. Heusel, AIA, under the moniker of Heusel & Fickett, Architects and Engineers (1945-1948). It didn’t take long for Fickett to create interest from paying clients. Fickett’s first job, “The A.W. Lewis Residence, 1945”, is located in Pasadena. A more traditional-looking façade with the touches of modern within. Through the collaboration of Fickett and Heusel, Fickett was published by the Los Angeles Times of a home designed for a returning Marine in 1946. This would mark Fickett’s first publication.

Edward H. Fickett, Architect (1947-1999) 1940s

Fickett became a Junior Associate of Southern California chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) on March 21, 1946. In 1947, Fickett received his architect’s license (C-896) and became a member of the AIA.

1950s

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s