AARON G. GREEN, FAIA (1917-2001)

Aaron G. Green was born in Corinth, Mississippi, in 1917 and raised in Florence, Alabama, where his father (a Russian immigrant who fled the Bolsheviks before the Revolution) was a builder and real estate developer in the small town. Green was studying art at New York’s Cooper Union School in 1939 when he first became aware of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. Wright, then in his seventies, was enjoying a remarkable career revival with the international praise for Fallingwater (the Pennsylvania summer home perched over a waterfall) and Johnson Wax’s headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin.

Because of his admiration for Wright, Green convinced one of his own clients to hire Wright instead of him. Wright was grateful – and impressed. The Rosenbaum house in Green’s native Florence, Alabama, became a handsome example of Wright’s Usonian houses. Green completed his education as an apprentice at Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship in the early 1940s before joining the military for World War II.

Aaron Green is usually associated with the San Francisco Bay Area, where he worked steadily from 1951 until his passing in 2001. But immediately after World War II he had settled in Los Angeles. The region was then experiencing a tremendous explosion of architectural creativity, including many other architects influenced by Wright, such as John Lautner, Lloyd Wright, Rudolph Schindler, Harwell Hamilton Harris, Foster Rhodes Jackson, Sim Bruce Richards, and Richard Neutra. Green’s work nonetheless stood out; his custom home designs were published regularly in House Beautiful magazine.

Interested initially in industrial design, Green worked for famed designer Raymond Loewy before opening his own architecture office in 1947. He designed custom homes, including the Anderson house in Palos Verdes, the Dukes house in La Canada, and the Reif house in Glendale. He also found clients in the movie industry, designing a home (unbuilt) for Farley Granger in the Hollywood Hills, and building a house for Angela Lansbury in Malibu.

Moving to San Francisco in 1951 where he already had several projects, Green expanded his independent practice to include public housing that reflected the same quality as his custom homes, even on strict budgets. He also designed professional offices, commercial buildings, schools, churches, civic centers, and interment facilities that brought distinguished architecture to the growing suburban communities of California.

Green’s public housing, for Marin County and Hunter’s Point in San Francisco, gained attention. Marin City, designed in conjunction with John Carl Warnecke and landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, replaced the temporary wartime housing built for the Sausalito ship building facility and the large African-American population that had worked there.

Green brought the same quality of Organic design to Marin City as he did for his custom homes; series of midrise apartment blocks grow out of the gentle slope of the hillside, and clusters of two-story units sit on flatter land. Though completed on budget, the project attracted political controversy because critics in Congress claimed its design was too luxurious for subsidized housing residents!