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Conrad Buff's design legacy

January 03, 2008

THANK YOU for the article on late architect Conrad Buff III's Rapor house and for the nostalgia it evoked ["Buff's House, Still Shining," Dec. 13]. As a 26-year-old carpenter and contractor, I built this house for Conrad, along with several other Buff & Hensman homes in the mid- to late '70s, including Don Hensman's home, Domus Solaris.

Conrad and I enjoyed a special bond, and I still have the silver and turquoise rings he made me. It's great to see his dream being kept alive.

Jim Davis Studio City

CONRAD BUFF was a meticulous designer and a master of details. I did the structural engineering for his house and the governor's mansion. His house is a jewel in all its varied details.

The roof "floats" between the long side walls, separated by continuous glass skylights so that light can wash the walls and illuminate the artwork on the walls. The kitchen floor was lowered so that all the appliances were hidden from view.

The house's geometry was based upon Con's love of handmade Mexican Saltillo tiles. The walls were located so that all the floor tiles were fully visible.

The governor's mansion should have been one of Buff & Hensman's crowning achievements. The original house design consisted of four wings interconnected by glass-enclosed corridors surrounded by gardens. The design was exposed post and soaring wood beam scissor trusses supporting redwood decking.

Their idiom was California redwood and Douglas fir as a reflection of the state. Gov. Reagan enthusiastically endorsed the design, but Mrs. Reagan rejected it and wanted a traditional design with a Mission tile roof. The revised design was unable to capture the spirit and excitement of the original.

Al Geller Ventura

THANKS for the article on Conrad Buff's house. Conrad and Mary Buff were friends of my parents, and my sister, Bobby Lovell, lives in the Newport Beach home by R.M. Schindler. She was married to the late Gary Lovell, son of Philip Lovell (the original owner of the Schindler house in Newport Beach and of the Lovell House by Richard Neutra in Los Angeles).

I grew up with rich friends who had Neutra and Schindler homes. It was after the Depression, and although well-educated, my parents lived in the low-rent district of Hillhurst and Talmadge just below Franklin Avenue.

In any case, we have a landscape by Conrad Buff's father, and, frankly, I knew little of his son and his connection to Neutra and Schindler.

Judy B. Rosener Newport Beach

Ihad not been aware of the Buff & Hensman design legacy before reading your Dec. 13 article. After reading it, however, I came to appreciate this firm and its design work. Your conclusion about the California way of life and blending into the landscape was very well put.

Isaac D. Kremer Detroit

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