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The Centennial Restoration of the Huntington Japanese House and Garden honored with the 2013 Governor’s Historic Preservation Award
Led by architect Kelly Sutherlin McLeod, FAIA, the Restoration of the Japanese House
receives Six Major Preservation Awards
LOS ANGELES, Calif., Nov 21, 2013 – As project architect for the Centenary Restoration of the Huntington Japanese House, Kelly Sutherlin McLeod, FAIA will accept the Governor’s Historic Preservation Award for 2013 in a ceremony at the State Capital today.
This historic restoration and conservation project has been recognized with five other preservation awards this year. These include the California Preservation Foundation Design Award, the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles and Pasadena Foothills Chapters Design Awards, the Los Angeles Business Council Architectural Preservation Award, and the Los Angeles Conservancy Preservation Award. Kelly Sutherlin McLeod, FAIA, also contributed a chapter on the centennial preservation and restoration of the historic Japanese House to the recently published and lavishly illustrated book One Hundred Years in the Huntington’s Japanese Garden: Harmony with Nature, edited by T. June Li. The book features 140 illustrations and essays by experts in botany, history and architectural preservation.
The restoration of the historic Japanese House and Garden at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens preserves a unique cultural landscape, and sets a singular precedent for the conservation and understanding of international, cross-cultural design. The Japanese House, the original structure at the heart of the garden, attained significance not as an architectural import but as a historic resource with a unique story illustrating the adaptation of Japanese culture to California. Japanese immigrant carpenters erected the structure both in its first location and when it was moved and reassembled. It retains its original form, as well as its relationship to the surrounding garden context. The processes and techniques developed on this project have set new international standards and best practices for the care and preservation of Japanese architecture and gardens in the United States and throughout the world.
“As a Japanese architectural historian I am grateful for the effort of numerous people to preserve the Huntington Japanese House at the centennial,’’ comments Atsuko Tanaka of the Nippon Institute of Technology near Tokyo. “The impact of this work in architectural preservation reaches far beyond the United States. It is important… as a symbol of cultural exchange between Japan and the United States.” The project revealed a cross-cultural masterwork, a hybrid of Japanese design and the regional construction techniques of the early 20th century, advancing the understanding and conservation of our cultural heritage and history. The house and garden have been both an anchor and a resource for the local community for over 100 years, welcoming more than 20 million visitors over the decades.
“It was an honor to serve as the project architect for this exceptional team of preservationists,” says Sutherlin McLeod. “I look forward to the cultural insight and understanding that the Huntington Japanese house will continue to reveal in the future.”
Currently Kelly Sutherlin McLeod Architecture, Inc. (KSMA) is engaged in the conservation and restoration of the Hafley House by the renowned Mid-Century Modern architect Richard Neutra, as well as the rehabilitation of two historic residences designed by Charles and Henry Greene, for the Westridge School in Pasadena.
About KSMA: Kelly Sutherlin McLeod Architecture, Inc. is an award-winning firm with a commitment to architectural integrity and innovative design. Combining an intrinsic architectural design aesthetic for the preservation and restoration of historically significant buildings with design innovation for institutional, light commercial, civic, urban planning, residential and interior projects for public and private clientele, Kelly Sutherlin McLeod Architecture, Inc. has earned a reputation for excellence in both new construction and adaptive reuse. Established in 1988, and headquartered in an historic landmark building in Long Beach, California, the company is founded on the design principles developed over the past 25 years by Kelly Sutherlin McLeod, FAIA. For more information please visit https://www.ksmarchitecture.com/.
About The Huntington:
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution serving scholars and the general public. More information about The Huntington can be found online at huntington.org.
Facts: Centenary Restoration of the Huntington Japanese House
The revelation of the historic value and unique cultural significance of the century-old Huntington Japanese House is a remarkable achievement. The process of historic preservation revealed a rare cross-cultural masterwork. A structure that was once considered ornamental is now valued and understood to be of crucial importance to the cultural history of California and the Japanese-American community.
- The centerpiece of a celebrated Botanical Garden, this unique Japanese House was originally constructed in Pasadena in 1903.
- Built by Japanese carpenters both in its first location and when later moved and reassembled in 1911, it has retained it historic original form.
- At the turn of the 20th century, there was a passionate international interest in the cultural and aesthetic traditions of Japan. The house served as an example and illustration of Japanese design and architecture, and also as a temporary pavilion to exhibit objet d’art from Japan.
- It is the only extant building that conveys our fascination with Japanese culture and design in Southern California in the early 20th century, one of four comparable structures that still exist throughout the United States.
- The preservation team chose to follow standard American preservation practices, with extensive support and input from Japanese architectural historians and other scholars.
- The challenge was to apply American preservation practices to a building designed in the architectural vocabulary and philosophy of a different culture.
- The processes developed for this project revealed its true significance, and set a precedent for the other historic Japanese structures.
- While preservation treatments ranged from major repairs to painstaking restoration of the minute details of finishing, colors and textures, the intention was to retain the historic integrity of the Japanese House, and its relationship to the surrounding garden.
- The Japanese House’s imported and domestic woods, organic lime-based plaster, handcrafted Japanese carved wood, ceramic, paper and metal elements were severely deteriorated by age and weather.
- In addition to preserving historic integrity, long-term maintenance was considered, including treatments and finishes easily cared for with readily available products and labor.
- The Japanese House is a hybrid of American and Japanese architecture, a prime example of Japanese architecture built in California at the turn of the 20th Century.
- The innovative processes developed here will also be essential to other historic structures around the world. The techniques and procedures provide insight that will apply to other historic Japanese structures in North America and abroad.
- While the design community often misunderstands the importance of historic preservation, the restoration of this unique project has already achieved national and international renown among scholars and conservators.
- A popular attraction, located on the grounds of a museum and library estate that now draws more than 600,000 visitors each year.
In 20 years of studying Japanese gardens in North America, and publishing two leading books on the subject, I have examined a variety of restoration, renovation and rehabilitation projects, but have found none as thoughtful or as important as the restoration of the Japanese House … at the Huntington Library, Galleries and Botanic Gardens. In its multiple components-research in history, function, materials and construction methods, as well as sensitive earthquake retrofitting, physical restoration, and documentation-this project represents a landmark in the restoration of Japanese structures in North America. In sum, whereas earlier historic Japanese architecture projects (at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, Brooklyn Botanical, Philadelphia’s Shofuso) simply involved hiring Japanese carpenters to replicate or repair the original buildings, with little documentation, …The Huntington project adapts the American preservation ethos and methods to a hybrid Japanese-American structure. As such, it is groundbreaking…its significance is international.
Dr. Kendall H. Brown
Professor of Asian Art History
California State University, Long Beach