by Anne Petersen
The exhibit traces the arc of Johnson’s career from his early work, to iconic projects including the Biltmore, Cate School, Bellosguardo (The Clark Estate) and Cuesta Linda (Lotusland). The exhibit also includes several acclaimed small house projects which contributed to Johnson’s evolving sense of architecture’s role in designing a high quality of life for everyone.
We devote an entire gallery to what some believe to be the pinnacle of his career, the Santa Barbara Downtown Post Office, 1937. A Depression-era project for which Johnson took no commission, the Post Office is a triumph of federal institutional character with a mix of Santa Barbara style. The gallery also includes a wall devoted to William Atkinson, who designed the bas reliefs on the interior, and a feedback activity designed to building awareness of the potential sale of the Post Office by the U.S. Postal Service.
The final portion of the exhibit explores Johnson’s late-career middle class and public housing projects through which his ideals about the architecture of community life crystallized. An emphasis on the relationship with the outdoors, and spaces for the community to gather characterize these projects.
We had a wonderful opening reception for the show on Thursday March 10. If you missed it, we will be open during First Thursday next Thursday May 5 from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm, and during regular museum hours until September 18.
Anne Petersen is the executive director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.