Pilot House

A. Quincy Jones, 1948
Los Angeles


Escher GuneWardena has begun phase I of an extensive restoration process of the historic Pilot House. Designed by architects A. Quincy Jones and Whitney Smith together with structural engineer Edgardo Contini, the now-landmarked project was built in the Mt. Washington neighbourhood of Los Angeles in 1948 to serve as a model for the large modern housing cooperative of Crestwood Hills, across town. Originally named the Mutual Housing Association, the cooperative was envisioned as a community of 500 affordable yet architecturally innovative homes built on difficult sites.

Like the designs for the Crestwood Hills community, the Pilot House uses a material palette of plywood, timber, and glass, cladding a rigid wood frame that floats above a series of concrete block volumes. The design takes advantage of the Southern California climate with passive heating and cooling features like sliding clerestory vents to circulate air through the house and a south-facing ribbon window to provide warmth in the winter. The living quarters are compact and much of the furniture was integrated into the architecture to maximize the modest square footage in this working-class home. The outdoor areas featured a native plant garden by Theodore Payne and several courts with dedicated functions.

Since its inauguration in 1948, the Pilot House has gone through a number of alterations that have compromised the effect of raw materiality and the fluidity between interior and exterior originally intended by the designers. The careful restoration returns the material palette to its original state, recreates built-in furniture based on the original design and updates the building infrastructure. The landscape is being replanted with native vegetation by Native Sanctuary, in tune with the original design.