USC Will Honor Architect Maston : School to give award to alumnus best known for his innovative, modern-style designs.

Times Staff Writer

When Carl Maston was in his senior year at USC in 1936, he still didn't know whether he wanted to pursue a career as a pianist or an architect.

Although he worked hard as an architectural student during the school year, he'd spend his summers practicing the piano for eight hours a day and would cap it with a public concert before heading back to school in the fall.

His piano instructor thought Maston had a bright future as a soloist. But Maston chose architecture, and over the next half-century would go on to design everything from honored homes to ice rinks.

The 73-year-old Angeleno, who still practices architecture on a part-time basis, will receive the USC School of Architecture's 1989 Distinguished Alumni Award at the Architectural Guild dinner April 12.

Inauspicious Beginning

In announcing that Maston had won the award, Robert S. Harris, dean of the school, said Maston is being singled out "for excellence in design and innovative leadership in public service."

Maston's career started on an inauspicious note: He got his architect's license in December, 1941, and enlisted just a few days after Pearl Harbor was bombed.

He served as a Marine Corps transportation officer on Oahu, and later, Midway, but most of the fighting was over by the time he got to either island. "We never saw action," Maston said. "We played tennis a lot and watched gooney birds."

He also daydreamed about the home he'd build in Los Angeles after the war was over.

After returning home, Maston found a site on Marmont Lane in West Hollywood and built what would become known as the Maston House or Marmont House, a late-Craftsman style home that has won several design awards.

Maston, however, is best known for his work in Modern architecture.

Innovative Ice Rink

Modernism is a functional, no-frills, technology-based style born in the pre-World War I days. Modern buildings are characterized by simple surfaces bereft of ornamentation--buildings such as Century Plaza Towers in Century City and the Chemosphere House in the Hollywood Hills.

One of Maston's most innovative structures was an ice rink at the corner of Reseda and Ventura boulevards in the San Fernando Valley community of Tarzana. It was built about 20 years ago, but torn down in the mid-1970s.

The rink resembled a tortoise shell. Its 36 precast concrete pieces reinforced each other, so the roof--a mere 3 1/2 inches thick--required no supporting posts.

The ice rink wasn't just one of Maston's most innovative buildings: It was also one of his personal favorites. "I couldn't go look at it when they were tearing it down," said Maston, who usually worked alone. "It was like losing a baby."

Headquarters Hailed

Most of the more than 100 other buildings Maston designed--from homes and shopping centers to university buildings and naval housing--have fared better than the old ice rink.

The headquarters he designed in the 1960s for himself at 2811 Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood is hailed as "an ideal Modern design" by "Architecture in Los Angeles: A Compleat Guide."

His other creations include the Chiat House on Camino Verde, which "Architecture in Los Angeles" calls "one of the best pieces of architecture in South Pasadena," and more than 40 other homes, ranging from California's wine country to Laguna Beach.

Maston also designed the School of Environmental Design at Cal Poly Pomona and the Creative Arts Building at California State University, San Bernardino. He also designed apartment buildings noted for their courtyard views, as well as shopping centers.

Planning Commissioner

He has also held numerous volunteer posts, including a five-year stint as a Los Angeles city planning commissioner. He was president of the Southern California chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1968, and has taught several courses at USC.

Maston, who is widowed and has one daughter, still takes on some architectural jobs, although he spends much of his free time sailing and, in the fall, watching Trojan football games on television.

Several other awards will be presented at the April 12 ceremonies, including the guild traveling fellowships. The two fellowships will allow the winners, USC graduate students Steven Whitney and Paul Blazek, to study architecture abroad.

For the Record Los Angeles Times Sunday April 9, 1989 Home Edition Real Estate Part 8 Page 6 Column 1 Real Estate Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction An article in the April 2 Real Estate Section incorrectly stated that architect Carl Maston is a widower. Although his first wife died in 1982, he has since remarried and lives with his spouse, Edith, in their West Hollywood home.
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