Architecture Flowers in Malibu

Architecturally interesting residence atop La Costa, built on a site that was burned out in the 1993 Malibu fire.  This is Eagle's Watch originally constructed in the 1950s
Architecturally interesting residence atop La Costa. This is "Eagle's Watch" originally constructed in the 1950s, destroyed by the 1993 fire, and rebuilt in 1997. Harry Gesner is the Architect.

Early Malibu Architecture

Refined architecture came early to Malibu due to the wealth and refined artistic sensibilities of the residents. It began with the Rindge family's own home, built in around 1893, a large Queen Anne with elements of the Colonial Revival style. As a harbinger of the fate of future Malibu homes, the Rindge's lost theirs to fire in 1903.

Two other Rindge family homes survive. One was the unfinished main house of May K. Rindge, sold in 1942 to the Franciscan Order (today's Serra Retreat House, rebuilt after a 1970 brush fire). The second is the Adamson House, built in 1929 by Rhoda Rindge Adamson on Vaquero Hill, next to Malibu Lagoon. Adamson House is today the Malibu Lagoon Museum.

In the Colony, the original "lease only" policy of May Rindge meant that not much effort was expended. The homes were basic beach cottages with few embelishments, all on standard 30 foot lots. It was "tres chic" to "rough it" in Malibu, then considered far out in the country. If a writer or actor was "called in from Malibu" for a script conference, they would stay overnight in LA.

By the late 1930s, land could be purchased in Malibu through the Rindge's Marblehead Land Co. Owners thought differently than renters and soon much larger and more elaborate homes were built in Malibu, while existing cottages were expanded and upgraded. During the 1940s, especially after the wartime shortages ended, and into the 1950s the confined spaces of the Colony were joined by the option of spacious acres on spectacular settings along the coast, inland, and on the mountain tops. High-art Modern and International style homes were mixed with Spanish hacienda ranch houses as the 1950s population boom expanded the housing stock. The 1954 Medford House (Kenneth Lind) showed how a Modern style beach house on a small lot can innovatively accomodate a family's mutifaceted needs.

Explosion of Style in Malibu

In the late 1960s something new entered the architectural mix, starting with John Lautner's towering curved concrete wave structure (the Stevens House), a house that "goes with the waves," according to Lautner. This trend-setting project, impossibly built on one of the 30 foot Colony lots, redefined what a Malibu home could mean. While general development in Malibu stayed with Modern, Spanish Revival, and other conventional designs, an architcural arms race ensued at the high end of the market, led by daring clients from the entertainment and business worlds. Architects and interior designers of international reputation were enlisted by Malibu's moneyed residents to produce a personalized spectacle by the sea. This trend did not start in the 1970s, nor has it yet ended, but the great acceleration followed Lautner's Stevens House.

The Coastal Acts of 1972 and 1976 created new constraints on design and siting in Malibu, as everywhere on the California coast, often introducing intolerable project delays. Projects such as Lautner's Beyer-Zell house on Lachusa Point (aka Victoria Point) took over 8 years to complete (1975-1983) due to problems with Coastal regulations.

Malibu's Artisan's Homes

In the early 1970s Malibu was still a place that attracted artists, designers, and creative souls of many talents. One expression of this was the self-construction of homes that reflected the design concepts of the individual artisan. Land prices in Malibu today preclude this type of owner, but in the 1940s - 1970s a "starving artist" could buy a plot in the mountains with a world class view and establish a retreat close to nature to inspire his art. While some were no more than "hippie shacks" others, such as the Gillbert residence in Decker Canyon started in 1970, have enduring value.

Significant Homes in Malibu

Malibu homes, generally considered architectually significant, and a few other structures are included on this list ordered by date of construction. Certainly others could be added and some of these may not be on everyone's list. Not all information is known about every project and dates are approximate. Please contact if you have suggestions.

Rindge Residence1895  
Fazenda Residence1924 Early colony. Remodel 1930
Colman Residence1926 Early colony
Coogan Residence1928  
Greta Garbo Residence1928 18862 PCH (La Esperanza)
Adamson Residence1929Morgan, Walls, & ClementsMalibu Lagoon Park
Bow/Bell Residence1933 Colony
Baxter Residence1934 Colony
Sidney Residence1934 Colony, first 2x lot
Arch Oboler Residence1940Frank Lloyd Wright32436 Mulholland, built in stages during 1940s
Clyne Residence1942  
Murphy Residence1946Griswold Raetze 
Fante Residence1948 28981 Cliffside Drive, Pt. Dume, home of LA novelist John Fante. Original Y-shaped building was demolished after 2005.
Becket Beach Residence1948Wurdeman and Becket 
Nauert Beach Residence1950Wallace Neff 
Holiday Residence Motel1950Richard Neutra27400 PCH (Geoffrey's Malibu)
Register Residence1950  
Lyndon Residence1950Maynard Lyndon28820 Cliffside Dr
Berns Beach Residence1951Gordon Drake31654 Broad Beach Rd
Boyer-Forthmann Compound1952Wallace NeffMadelaine and Harold Boyer residence was built in 1952 at 31302 Broad Beach Rd, the Nora Forthmann residence (31310 BBR) and Ann M. Forthmann residence (31316 BBR) shortly thereafter on the same compound.
Medford Residence1954Kenneth Lind 
Hunt Residence1955Craig Ellwood24514 Malibu Beach Road
Eagle's Watch1955Harry GesnerOriginally reachable only by a 180-foot tramway
Wing Residence1957Carl MastonOn bluffs above Paradise Cove at end of Zumirez Drive
Wave House1957Harry Gesner 
DeVault Residence1958Herbert Kameon20595 Seaboard Road, Big Rock
Hayward Residence1960Matt Kivlin 
Reed Residence1960John Reed21536 Rambla Vista
Pierson Residence1961Craig Ellwood32320 PCH
Seidel Beach House1961Pierre Koenig42560 PCH
Copeland-Waycott Residence1963Cliff May 
LeBrun Residence1966Thornton Abell6339 Bonsall Dr
Stevens Residence1968John Lautner 
Brown Residence1969Buff and Hensman 
Niles Residence1969Edward R. Niles 
Gillberg Residence1970Carl Gillberg1710 Decker Canyon Rd
Garwood Residence1970John Lautner 
Pepperdine University1971William Pereira 
Rucker Residence1971Douglas Rucker23704 Harbor Vista, Malibu Knolls
Rapf Residence1971David J. Flood 
Ulrich Residence1971 26800 PCH (Gull's Way)
Moore Residence1971James MooreSaddle Peak (Windcliff)
Davis Residence1972Frank Gehry29715 Cuthbert Rd, Trancas
Kuri Residence1972Buff & Hensman 
Tin Residence1972Frank Gehry 
La Vigile1973Jana MeekPt. Dume
Beyer/Zell Residence1975John Lautner & Richard TurnerSea Level Drive, Victoria Point
Bob Dylan Residence1975David TowbinPt. Dume
Nauert Residence1975Buff & HensmanBurned and rebuilt as Phoenix House, 1978
House X1976Edward R. Niles 
Castle Kashan1977Thomas Hodges23800 Malibu Crest Dr, Malibu Knolls
Malibu Country Club Golf Course1978William Francis Bell, Jr.901 Encinal Canyon Road
Segel Residence1979John LautnerLater owned by Courteney Cox Arquette, Carbon Beach
Burton Pole House1979Pierre Koenig31371 PCH
Monihan Residence1980Edward D'Andrea 
Alan Landsburg & Linda Otto Residence1980Jerrold Lomax22432 PCH
Streisand Deco Residence1980 Streisand Compound guesthouse, Ramirez Canyon
Addis Residence1983Carl Maston 
Roufe Residence1984Marshall Lewis 
Sidley Residence1984Edward R. Niles27929 Winding Way
The Tree House1985Randy Nauert 
Ackerberg House1986Richard Meier 
Landon Residence1986Tharp-Williams 
Rossi Residence1986Ted Tokio TanakaLa Costa
Arnoldi Residence1987Chuck ArnoldiPt. Dume
Office Building1988Goldmann, Firth, Boccato24955 PCH
Martin Residence1988Bruce Martin 
Goodson Residence1990Edward R. Niles 
Sagheb Residence1990John Lautner32402 PCH
Downey Residence1991Melinda Gray31616 Broad Beach Rd
Walker Residence1992Melinda Gray2935 Las Tunas Cyn Rd
Rancho Cielo1993Goldman Firth640 Kanan-Dume Rd
Cutler Residence1993Quentin Dart ParkerSaddle Peak
Kline/Miller Residence1994Lorcan O'Herlihy26645 Latigo Shore Rd
Somerfield Residence1994Goldmann, Firth, Boccato27747 Vantage Point Terrace
Cariker Residence1995Edward D'AndreaTrancas Beach
Niles Residence1995Edward R. Niles 
Lawrence Residence1997Harry Gesner 
Ritenour Residence1998Mark Mack 
Benjamin Residence1998Jerrold Lomax 
Enkeboll Residence2001D. Wallace BentonDolphin Head Ranch, Encinal Canyon
Broad Residence2001Richard MeierGlass and white aluminum, Eli Broad, Carbon Beach
Morton Residence2003Richard MeierTeak and concrete, Carbon Beach
Lever Residence2004Bart PrincePt. Dume

Sources and Recommended Books about Malibu's Development

This page was compiled from a number of sources. However, the outstanding reference work for this topic is:

  • Malibu : A Century of Living by the Sea by Julius Shulman and Juergen Nogai with text by Richard Olsen, basically an architecture book but also far more. Its flawless photos of Malibu homes span the entire history from the Rindge Rancho to the 2000s with insightful commentary on the trends and architects who created the trends in each period. Many of the photos show more than the home, supplying a glimpse of life in Malibu at the time.

Return to Malibu History: 1970 to 1991 or up one level to Malibu Development & Diversification or up one more level to Malibu History or up to the Home Page.

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