THE LIGHT KEEPER--
Long time San Diego resident, Parker Jackson lives in a museum of his own making dedicated to honoring the work of Richard Requa (1881-1941), an AIA architect, who in the early 1920s brought residential themes in early Spanish influenced architecture to the Southern California masses. Requa (ree-kwah) didn’t invent Spanish Revival styles but he definitely sparked the region’s romance with red tile roof architecture.
Jackson, a retired Hollywood press agent and bar owner, moved into his present Marlborough Street home in 1983 and has been living there ever since. Many props from old Hollywood movies are part of the eclectic interior décor, such as a secretary reportedly from the set of “Citizen Kane” and a tapestry from “Sunset Boulevard.”
San Diegans are also fortunate that Jackson has kept his home as original as possible and painstakingly documenting its history, including its debut in 1926. “When I moved in, I had no idea, who Requa was. But once I found old brochures and newspaper articles that showed my home was designed by him, I became fascinated with how his work influenced such a design revolution,” said Jackson.
Thanks to Jackson and other dedicated historians much of Requa’s drawings, blueprints, writings and photography has been saved. The San Diego Historical Society has nearly 300 files on Requa, most containing original drawings of nearly every project, including his work as lead architect for the 1935 California-Pacific International Exposition held in San Diego’s famed Balboa Park. Requa is also credited with introducing Spanish Revival themes to entire downtown areas in Ojai and Rancho Santa Fe, California. His experience is boundless ranging from high schools to public fountains.
“Requa didn’t have a family to maintain his papers after he died and much of it languished for years,” Jackson said. “In the early 1980’s I started collecting everything I could and with the help of the San Diego Historical Society we saved quite a bit.”
Jackson has obtained Requa memorabilia from various sources ranging from those who knew Requa to thrift store finds. Among the more personal prized relics are a leather bound portfolio of Requa’s photographic journeys to Spain and original 16mm home movies taken by Requa documenting the architect’s family, friends, colleagues, travels and projects.
But Requa’s legacy isn’t just his memorabilia. Few architects anywhere anytime can boast such an influence on a style. So widespread has been Requa’s influence that today, in the more rural areas of San Diego County, especially the ranch style gated communities like Cielo, Fairbanks Ranch and Rancho Santa Fe, Mediterranean/Tuscan style is not only popular but the style is protected by covenants demanding conformity to (again) the red tile roof look.
But what is about Requa’s work that inspired such loyalty from Parker and latter generations of local architects and homebuyers?
Because Spanish Revival design originates from a Mediterranean climate, tradition and culture like ours in California, it fits perfectly into the arid climate and landscape of California.
People are drawn to the look because of the simplicity of Spanish design. Stylewise it is very equalitarian. There is no right or wrong. Basic materials like tile flooring, wood beams, tile roof tiles, and stucco are readily found. Plus, over the decades Mediterranean based style works well in $10 million estates to 800 square-foot bungalows.
So many Spanish Revival homes have larger overhangs, arcades and courtyards to temper a strong sun and make the inner spaces cool and inviting.
Jackson’s unofficial Requa museum is a virtual twin of a 19th century farmhouse that Requa visited and photographed near Ronde, Spain in the mid 1920s. Jackson apologizes to period purists for embracing a more personal décor rather than going rustic. “I simply couldn’t find many authentic Spanish farm house furnishings in San Diego, so I went with family heirlooms, occasional pieces in the style and pieces that I just plain liked.”
A house like Parker’s goes with the San Diego’s love affair with indoor/outdoor living year around. Requa’s early designs used lots of white, a tone that was a stark contrast to dark Victoriana decors. The open courtyards lend themselves to the use of different materials like wrought-iron, which is very romantic with its curves.
Another plus for Spanish style interior design is it is easy to decorate… you can put simple Mexican woven rugs on the floors, purchase Mexican art… and with our proximity to the border it is easy find craftspersons on both sides of the border that can custom create anything you want.
Jackson points out Requa’s personal philosophy influenced the leveling of the style to everyman’s taste. Simplicity is the overriding theme in Requa’s designs. Parker insists, “useless ornamentation to make a house more opulent chaffed him and as a result he embraced the more austere Mission style rather than the more ornate Spanish architecture styles like Churriguersque or Spanish Barroque.”But perhaps Requa said it best in 1926, when he predicted the lasting popularity of simple, clean, enduring
Caption: Parker Jackson, left with article author Tom Shess. Photo by Mike Shess
Source: This article was published in Old House Interiors, Nov/Dec 2008.
OHI magazine image photograph by Gary Payne.