A closer look at the Modernist utopia Crestwood Hills

Modernist homes for all: That was the idea behind Crestwood Hills in L.A. How did it work out?

In 1947, on the hills above Brentwood, the newly formed Mutual Housing Assn. broke ground on an ambitious 800-acre neighborhood development named Crestwood Hills. Now the little-known story behind the enclave that epitomizes Midcentury Modern architecture is detailed by architect Cory Buckner in her new book, "Crestwood Hills: The Chronicle of a Modern Utopia." Among its 200 photos are many by Julius Shulman.

Motivated by the lack of affordable housing in postwar L.A., four veterans initially envisioned four homes built around a common pool. The group quickly grew to 500 couples. A design team was selected, including architects A. Quincy Jones and Whitney R. Smith. Twenty-eight innovative home designs were offered, but costs soon skyrocketed.

"Modernist building can be done economically, but infrastructure issues and proposed post-and-beam detailing was too intricate to keep it economical for middle-class families," noted Buckner, a longtime resident of Crestwood Hills.

Families backed out, contractors went bankrupt and the 1961 Bel-Air fire destroyed 45 homes. Although the original utopian vision was never realized, the neighborhood eventually flourished, becoming the first and only successful large-scale modern housing cooperative in the West. Nineteen of the original homes have been designated historic monuments.


'Crestwood Hills'

What: Author Cory Buckner will discuss "Crestwood Hills"

Where: Crestwood Hills Recreation Center, 1000 Hanley Ave., Los Angeles

When: 2-4 p.m. March 8

Info: RSVP to rsvp@angelcitypress.com, or call (424) 254-9227


What: Book signing

Where: Hennessey + Ingalls, 214 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica

When: 2:30-4 p.m. March 21

Info: hennesseyingalls.com


Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times