Maynard Lyndon, a longtime Los Angeles architect known for his innovative school projects, including UCLA’s Bunche Hall, died Nov. 30 at a hospital in Germany, his home for the last two decades. He was 92.
Lyndon designed more than 40 school projects in California and Michigan. The Northville Elementary School in Michigan, which was built in 1936 and featured concrete construction coupled with refined brick and glass walls, was notable for its simple, clean lines and was considered the first modern public school in North America. It received a Silver Medal from the 5th Pan American Congress of Architects in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1940.
Many of his school projects concentrated on the effective use and distribution of natural light, a quality associated with higher academic achievement in recent national studies. First used in schools in Ojai, Lyndon’s design featured full walls of glass on the north, clerestory windows on the south and a sloping ceiling, a scheme that resulted in extremely even light across a classroom.
Notable examples include the Meiners Oaks School in Ojai, Apperson Street School in Los Angeles and Webster School in Malibu.
His schools “had significant influence on other architects,” said professor Robert Harris of the USC School of Architecture, where Lyndon led design studios from the 1940s through the early 1960s. “The principal thing was making beautifully illuminated classrooms so that the light of the sun was shielded but reflected into the rooms. It was wonderfully balanced light.”
Harris noted that Lyndon also organized classrooms around well-proportioned courtyards. His schools, Harris said, “were actually humane places. The work around lighting, space and real attention to life was what animated all his work.”
Lyndon was among a group of architects in postwar America who pioneered the use of large areas of glass, which distinguished his designs for the Santa Fe railway ticket office on Pershing Square, the Cory Glass Co. on Wilshire Boulevard and the Harvey Knox shop in Beverly Hills.
Floor-to-ceiling glass also was the striking concept behind the design of his family home on Point Dume in Malibu. Built in 1949, the same year as architect Philip Johnson’s famous glass house in Connecticut, it won several architectural prizes, including an American Institute of Architects honor award.
In 1964, Bunche Hall opened. Initially controversial, the high-rise, notable for its waffle-like, three-dimensional pattern of glass solar shields for windows, is considered one of the most distinctive buildings on the UCLA campus.
Lyndon also won praise for the elegance and economy of his designs for the 28th Church of Christ Scientist in Westwood and the 10th Church of Christ Scientist in West Los Angeles.
Born in Howell, Mich., Lyndon was an architect in Washington and Detroit before moving to Los Angeles in the early 1940s. During his three decades here, he also led senior design studios at the USC school of architecture from 1945 to 1957 and in 1961-62.
In 1972, he established a consulting firm, Lyndon Design Counsellors, in London. Since 1973, he and his wife, landscape architect and planner Joyce Earley Lyndon, had lived in Kussaberg, Germany, where he had been studying public spaces and traveled widely to sketch the forms of German and Swiss towns, churches and farm buildings.
Two sons followed him into the design field: Donlyn, chairman of the department of architecture at UC Berkeley, and Maynard, an industrial designer in Newton, Mass. Lyndon is also survived by a daughter, Jo, of Portland; stepchildren Judy Laprade of Las Vegas and David Hand of Irvine; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
Donations to support the archiving of his work may be sent to the Maynard Lyndon Fund, UC Regents, c/o Department of Architecture, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720.