Oral Histories

Interview of Raphael Soriano

Immigrant from Greece and mid-century modern architect known for using prefabricated steel and aluminum in residential and commercial buildings.
Subtitle:
Substance and Function in Architecture
Topic:
Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Design
Interviewer:
Laskey, Marlene L.
Interviewee:
Soriano, Raphael
Persons Present:
Soriano and Laskey.
Place Conducted:
Soriano's office in Tiburon, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Marlene L. Laskey, UCLA Oral History Program; B.A., political science, UCLA; has researched, organized, and conducted architectural tours of Los Angeles.
Processing of Interview:
Carey Southall, editorial assistant, edited the interview. He checked the verbatim transcript of the interview against the original tape recordings, edited for punctuation, paragraphing, and spelling, and verified proper names. Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been bracketed. The final manuscript remains in the same order as the taped material. In February 1987 the edited transcript was sent to Soriano, who reviewed and approved it. He made some corrections and returned the manuscript in February 1988. Ghana Lee, editorial assistant, prepared the table of contents, biographical summary, and interview history. Bryce Little, editor, prepared the index.
Length:
9 hrs.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Audio:
Family background--Persecution and expulsion of Spanish Jews--The Island of Rhodes--Father's method of punishing him--Takes care of parents as they grow older--Exposure and feelings toward music--Early education--Leaving for America--Arriving at Ellis Island.
Eating In America--Learns English at the Los Angeles Coaching School--Studies at the University of Southern California--Choosing architecture over music composition--Romain Rolland--Questions teachers at the USC School of Architecture--The acceptance of new ideas among students and colleagues.
Lecture to the American Institute of Architects--The Second Generation and Imitations of Richard J. Neutra--Rudolph M. Schindler--Designing his first house--The John Reed Club--David Siqueiros--Falling in love with Ruth Orkin--Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard J. Neutra speak at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Auditorium--Working for the County of Los Angeles--Learning architecture through observation--Building the Lipetz House--Recovering from the 1932 accident.
The use of steel--Influence of Neutra--The lost projects in Tiburon--The advantages of using aluminum over wood--The work of Joseph Eichler, Theodore C. Bernardi, Frederick Emmons, and A. Quincy Jones--"Nostalgic" housing styles and standards--The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and its requirement of conforming to the neighborhood quality and housing--Rebelling against nostalgia and tradition.
Working with Fritz Ruppell--Milton Katz and the Gato House--The Polito House--The [Glen] Lukens House--Soriano's landscaping work--The advantages of building with steel--Using aluminum--The Strauss House--Using prefabricated materials to construct the Hallawell Nursery--Acquiring rationed materials during World War II--Vies with Frank Lloyd Wright to do the V.C. Morris Company.
Gives V.C. Morris contract to Wright--Soriano's "stolen" drawings for the IBM building in San Francisco--The Julius Shulman House and the use of epoxy resin for welding--The Curtis House: Soriano's first prefabricated house--Experimenting with insulating cork--More on the use of steel in housing--Philip C. Johnson--Soriano's influence on Craig Ellwood--Attitude towards the work and writings of Cesar Pelli--Joseph Y. Fujikawa--Gets turned down to do Station KQED in San Francisco.
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors rejects his model for the Barnsdall Art Center--The Case Study Program and California Arts and Architecture--Feelings toward John Entenza and his promotion of modern architecture--Charles Eames and the Eames House--The Case Study Houses 1945-1960--Relationship with Julius Shulman--The 1950 Alcoa Aluminum Conference--Moves to the San Francisco area--Organizes Project Architects--Ciro's stores in San Francisco and Beverly Hills--The Colby Apartment.
More on the Colby Apartment and its cabinetry--The lack of craftsmanship in architecture--"The New House in 194X"--Introduces the use of eight-foot doors--Plywood walls and ribbon windows--Corrugating with Plexiglas--Creating light.