If you follow along with our blog, you know that we've been diving deep into the history of modern architecture and the architects who have influenced it. This month, we're looking at Joseph Eichler, one of the most influential names in the mid-century modern movement and, most interestingly, tract housing.
Eichler wasn't really an architect at all, but rather a real estate developer. Throughout the early 20th century, he was a major advocate of bringing the modern architecture that was popular in corporate buildings and larger, pricier custom homes to the general public through his company Eichler Homes.
Eichler Homes built more than 11,000 homes in Northern and Southern California between 1949 and 1966, and eventually these homes became known simply as "Eichlers". These homes were built in large developments of multiple identical units, but we love them because unlike similar developments, Eichler found a way to inject major modern style and design elements influenced by architects like Frank Lloyd Wright. By hiring architects and instructing them to create these affordable homes with the mid-century modern elements that Eichler appreciated, he created an entirely new type of tract housing.
Most of Eichler's homes are known for a few key factors. Many of them are constructed with flat, gabled roofs and low lines that line up with the horizon. There are few (and sometimes no) windows on the front facades, but large, floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the interiors. These homes were private from the street and open and full of light inside, while the public rooms were spacious with few walls and the private areas, such as the bedrooms and baths, were smaller and cozier.
Today, Eichler's homes are synonymous with Californian architecture, and many people even refer to his style as "California contemporary". While Eichler sourced local elements such as redwood in Northern California, he also sourced materials that he loved from overseas, such as the mahogany he used on many of his homes’ walls.