GREGORY AIN: Low-Cost Modern Housing and the Construction of a Social Landscape

The architect Gregory Ain (1908 – 1988) was a pioneer in the development of low-cost modern housing in Los Angeles. In the 1930s and 1940s he developed a series of controversial housing projects, many based on the cooperative model, promoting equality and racial integration, which fused his interest in radical left-wing politics, planning, and architecture. This exhibition features five of his housing projects: Dunsmuir Flats (1937), Park Planned Homes (1946), Avenel Cooperative Housing (1948), Mar Vista Housing (1948) and Community Homes Cooperative (1946-1948, unbuilt), a racially integrated community, developed in collaboration with Garrett Eckbo, Simon Eisner, and Reginald D. Johnson. These projects stand out for their innovative approach to the construction of a “social landscape” through the integration of architecture, landscape, and planning. While promoting ideas of mutual investment in the built environment, these planned neighborhoods were meant to provide “common people” with a new kind of shared urban space. 

In 2011 Kyungsub Shin, a Korean artist and photographer, photographed the interior and exterior of four of Ain’s housing projects. The exhibition consists of black and white photographs by Julius Shulman, depicting the houses in their original condition, and contemporary colored photographs by Kyungsub Shin. While documenting their continued relevance as a model of affordable housing, Shin’s photographs investigate the ways in which these small yet well-designed and highly desirable houses accommodate contemporary lifestyles of its various occupants. The unbuilt Community Homes Cooperative (1946-1948), Ain’s “manifesto” of the planned community, is presented using drawings and other archival material, including reports by the House Un-American Activities Committee and FBI files used to monitor the members of the cooperative and Ain’s political activities.

Curated by Anthony Fontenot in collaboration with Anali Gharakhani.
Exhibition design by still room / Jessica Fleischmann with Dorothy Lin,
in collaboration with Anthony Fontenot and Anali Gharakhani.
Drawing reproduction by Anali Gharakhani.
Photo by Julius Shulman (American, 1910-2009).
Dunsmuir Flats, 1940. Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute
(2004.R.10). Image copyright J. Paul Getty Trust.