Lloyd Ruocco's influence on San Diego Modernism is perhaps the most important aspect of his career. His influence was profound and far reaching.  However, possibly the most interesting aspect of Ruocco's career is a study of those who influenced him.  If one was to examine San Diego  residential architecture in the years between WWI and WWII with few exceptions, they would see a plethora of  revivalist styles.  Ruocco's wood and glass designs of the late 30s and 40s were progressive, modern and completely out of place in those years.  Often an architects vernacular can be easily traced from those who he worked for or studied with; this is not the case with Lloyd Ruocco and it's yet another reason his work is historically important.

This section will seek to identify those who worked for Ruocco and also those architects who employed him in early parts of career. In addition, a few individuals who did not fit neatly in either of those categories yet may have influenced the direction of his planning and design are included below.

Ilse Ruocco's influence on her husband's work probably should be mentioned right up front.  Ilse was well connected to some of the most noted artists and designers of the early part of the last century and was roughly seven years his senior.  They often collaborated and their shared passion for art and design was the motor behind much of what they were able to accomplish in their lifetimes.

This is not an exhaustive list; there are literally dozens and probably hundreds of individuals who would count Lloyd Ruocco among those who influenced their respective careers.  

 

Employers 

Richard Requa

Gave Ruocco his first architectural job in 1926.  Ruocco served as lead designer under Requa on many projects including the Palisades Restaurant at Balboa Park  (c 1935) as well as multiple residential projects. He worked on and off with Requa until his passing in 1941.

William Templeton Johnson

Ruocco worked on several projects with Johnson throughout the 1930s. He served as lead draftsman on the City Administration building under the partnership of Gill, Requa, Johnson and Hamill. Johnson served as Ruocco's sponsor for his architectural license application in 1937.

Louis Gill

Worked under Gill on the City Administration Building project.

Sam Hamill

Closer to contemporaries Hamill and Ruocco worked alongside one another at the offices of Richard Requa and again in Rancho Santa Fe under Lillian Rice.  Hamill would champion the work of the younger Ruocco throughout his career and was instrumental in the selection of Ruocco to design the Civic Theater in the early 1960s.

Lilian Rice

Rice served as both mentor and teacher to Ruocco.  Ruocco was assigned to Rice by Requa when she developed the master plan for Rancho Santa Fe in the 1920s. She was also his drafting instructor at San Diego State College, ultimately convincing  Ruocco to leave San Diego to pursue his architectural studies at her alma mater, the University of California Berkeley.

Frank Mead

Ruocco worked under the partnership of Requa Mead in the 20s and 30s.

Employees

John August Reed

Worked under Ruocco in the late 1940s;  associated with projects for Sylvan and Nathan Baranov.

Fred Liebhardt

Following his time studying with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin, Fred worked for Ruocco in the early 1950s.  Liebhardt's own home in La Jolla shares many design features with Ruocco's first home Il Cavo.

Henry Hester

Following his graduation from USC Hester worked in Ruocco's offices at the Design Center from 1952-1954.

Alfred Macy

Macy was the the lead designer in Ruocco's offices from 1958 through the Ruocco Delawie partnership in 1961/62. Macy left with Delawie and ultimately partnered with Delawie to form Delawie Macy Architects.

Homer Delawie

Following his graduation from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and after a brief stint working in Fresno for a local architectural firm, Delawie took a job working for Ruocco at the Design Center in 1956. Ruocco saw Delawie as a protege. Ruocco planned several trips abroad with the first in 1959. Just prior to those trips Ruocco and Delawie agreed to a partnership that would allow the firm to carry on in Ruocco's absence. The Ruocco Delawie partnership lasted from 1959 through 1961. Notable projects designed under the partnership include the Feller Residence, Senterfit Residence and Upas Garden Apartments.  Delawie started his own firm in January of 1962.

Russell Forester

Forester worked for Ruocco during one of the most interesting periods of the firm history. Starting as a draftsman in the studios at the Il Cavo home in La Mesa Forester would be one of Ruocco's earliest collaborators at the Design Center completed in 1949. 

Fred J Meyer

Following brief stints with Robert Des Lauriers and John Sigurdson, Meyer started working for Ruocco in 1964 and stayed on till Ruocco's retirement in the mid 1970s. Notable projects completed in association with Meyer include:  The Sheldon Residence, Bos Residence, Herrera Residence and Avocado Professional Group Medical and Dental Building.

Collaborators

James Hubbell

Renowned for his own style of organic design throughout the world, Hubbell teamed with Ruocco on a handful of projects in the late 50s and early 1960s.  St Andrews Church in Pacific Beach is possibly the most notable collaboration.

Harriett Wimmer

One of the most important landscape architects to practice in San Diego, Wimmer's office was established in Ruocco's Design Center in the 1950s. Her offices like Ruocco's served as a training ground for many designers who would later gain prominence on their own.  It is believed that Wimmer was the primary landscape architect used by Ruocco from roughly 1949 till her retirement.  

Joseph Yamada

Wimmer's younger partner became the primary designer for the firm (Wimmer Yamada Landscape Architects) in the early 1960s.  Yamada would expand the landscape a as feature of several Ruocco projects including his seminal design for the Institute of Geoplanetary & Planetary Physics at  the University of California San Diego (c 1963). Yamada's simple plant massing and classic use of modern wooden site features were the perfect compliment to Ruocco's redwood & glass structures.

Milton Sessions

Ruocco and Sessions likely began working together in the 1920s and 1930s while Ruocco was an apprentice with Richard Requa.  Several Sessions designs were completed for Ruocco designed projects. Most notable was the Point Loma home of jeweler Sylvan Baranov.

John Dirks

Dirks and Ruocco were frequent collaborators.  Both were early members of Allied Artists/Craftsmen.  Ruocco lent his assistance to Dirks when the artist and furniture designer designed his own home in Mt Helix in the early 1950s.  Dirks, Ilse and Lloyd Ruocco were also frequent collaborators for various art and design exhibitions.  Perhaps the most notable of the Dirks' contributions to Ruocco's designs were the  built-in Hi Fi stereo systems that were found in many Ruocco homes.

Other Possible Influences

William Wurster

What led Lloyd Ruocco to emerge as one of the California's earliest practitioners of modernism remains somewhat mysterious.  It is difficult to study works by Johnson, Requa or Rice and  find some kind of logical thread as to how Ruocco jumped to his brand of rustic, redwood and glass modernism of the late 30s and 40s.  One theory that might be put forward was an early association with William Wurster.  Ruocco's time at Berkeley overlapped a time when Wurster's work in the Bay Area was known to be highly influential. This association is not well established.

Buckminster Fuller & Jeffry Lindsay

Ruocco's association with  Fuller & Lindsay is not well documented. What is clear is that Ruocco experimented with dome structures very early in their evolution. Ruocco built several experimental domes at the Ruocco Ranch in Santee in the early 1950s.  In 1957 Ruocco's design for the San Diego Children's Zoo included what is believed to be the earliest Geodesic Dome built on the West Coast.  The San Diego Union credits Ruocco with its design however there is some debate and that dome likely resulted from a collaboration between Ruocco and Fuller protege Jeffrey Lindsay.

Raphael Soriano

Another architect who may have played a role in Ruocco's career is Soriano.  Ilse Ruocco's nieces who lived with Lloyd and Ilse in the 1940s while attending San Diego State College recall a close relationship between the two architects. Although no specific collaborations are known, Ruocco like Soriano was a strong advocate of the use of steel in residential design.  Several Ruocco designs of the late 1940s were dependent on a steel structural frame. His demountable and expandable concept for 'Garden Villa' used a steel post and beam structure much like those used by Soriano around the same time. Ruocco's second home 'Solari' used this steel structural system.

Laura Andreson

World renowned for her ceramic work, Andreson was a lifelong friend of Ilse Hamann Ruocco.  She was her roommate at the University of California Los Angeles in the early 1920s and was one of a handful of the couple's closest friends who attended their wedding atop Mount Helix in the mid 1940s . Andreson was a frequent collaborator specifically on the couples efforts to bring architecture and design curriculum to early childhood education.

Richard Neutra.

Richard and Dione Neutra were known to be close friends of the Ruoccos.  The Ruocco Archive contains photos of the Neutras visiting San Diego in the 50s and 60s.  It is unknown how or where the relationship may have started but Ruocco's first major step towards modern design occurred with six unique modern designs for the 1935 Modeltown exhibit at the the San Diego California Pacific International Exposition.  Of the dozens of other concepts presented at the exhibition only one was equally modern in concept. Richard Neutra's sole submission for Modeltown is believed to have been loosely based on his design for the Beard Residence in Altadena California built less than a year earlier.

 

© 2018 Todd Pitman