The Mutual Housing Association Site Office, City Cultural Historic Monument No, 680, was completed in 1947, the first building in the Mutual Housing Association cooperative housing tract development designed by architects A. Quincy Jones, Whitney R. Smith and structural engineer Edgardo Contini. It was used as the site office for the architect team while the development was under construction and was to become the arts and crafts building for the neighboring park.
MHA was the only successful large-scale cooperative housing development in California in the post-war years. Planned on 800 acres at the edge of the Santa Monica Mountains, MHA or Crestwood Hills as it is now known, is one of the few fully realized modernist projects in the state. The master plan uses the rugged terrain to provide a balance of single-family homes and communal facilities. A community park, nursery school, and community center, were planned for the best flat land at the center of the tract. The plan originally included a neighborhood co-op store, medical building, plant nursery, and gas station. After the MHA members moved into their houses to raise their young families, the impetus to develop the other communal facilities dwindled. The site office no longer destined to be an arts and crafts building was converted to a house in 1952.The nursery school continues to thrive to this day and is still run on a cooperative basis and the park was deeded to the City.
Eventually 85 houses were built on the 350 designated lots. After two contractors went bankrupt building the architect’s designs, owners hired their own architects. The houses designed by others are referred to as infill houses. Only 32 of the original 160 houses remain. The Bel Air fire destroyed 45 and the others were demolished or remodeled beyond recognition. 19 of the remaining houses are designated historic monument with the city of Los Angeles. Architect, Cory Buckner, has been instrumental in establishing 15 of these designations. She has remodeled and restored close to a dozen of the remaining houses.
With the bravado characteristic of the immediate post-war period, the Site Office springs from a concrete masonry abutment to cantilever on steel beams over the wooded canyon. The building is finished with unadorned materials in their natural state: concrete block, redwood siding, exposed Douglas Fir plywood, and tongued and grooved ceiling planks. The dramatically angled building section, with brise-soleil, light shelf and clerestory reminiscent of Taliesin West and Wright’s Hillside House, shows the influence of the architects’ colleagues and collaborators on the project. John Lautner was initially part of the team and Jim Charlton, a Taliesin apprentice, was responsible for much of the design and construction drawings.
The MHA site office is unique in that it was originally just one open space to serve as a work space for the architects. It was converted to resemble MHA model 102X, one of the 9 MHA designs seen throughout the community