Recently published by local author and architect Cory Buckner is a richly illustrated book, focusing on the Lyman House, one of Malibu’s late and lamented landmarks. It is also a reminder when the community was an exurban outlier, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites.
The book entitled “The Lyman House and the Works of Frederick P. Lyman” is an estimable testament to a talented but relatively unheralded architect, and his singular project, an intellectually considered, crafted canyon house.
To be sure, Lyman was a Yale graduate, had worked in the office of the prestigious Richard Neutra, and in time was president of the local American Institute of Architects. He also was involved in the fledgling efforts for Malibu’s cityhood.
But he was never what you might call today, a star architect, a big name with a big ego, nailing big commission and big headlines.
Indeed, his reputation was based in large part on the Lyman House, a design of 1200 square feet he crafted for himself in Malibu, essentially as a bachelor pad. In the preface, renown architect Ray Kappe, a contemporary of Lyman’s, declares the house a masterpiece.
Built in 1960, apparently using no nails, the house was very much in the spirit and style of Japanese design, which he had studied. I would add he apparently was influenced by the vernacular dwelling known as the “Minka,” specifically of a modest mountain structure called a “sanka.”
It was eventually sold to another architect, and who in making what he considered improvements, naturally corrupted the design, and flipped it, reportedly at a hefty profit, which he enjoyed telling Lyman. So Malibu.
What was perhaps also indicative of Malibu, from an architectural historian’s view, the bastardized house mercifully was destroyed in the Las Flores fire of 1993. Perhaps there is such a thing as architectural karma.
And talk of karma, the house in 1969 caught the eye of a young art student, who stopped to sketch it. Emerging out of the house, Lyman asked the student whether she wanted a job. She did, and for the next ten years Cory Buckner worked as his apprentice, and in time became a recognized architect in her own right, and an author.
This of course lends the book a rare and welcome perspective, and the Lyman’s design of the house and the wealth of his illustrations the distinction that they deserve. Lyman mentored Buckner well, and she has most respectfully repaid him. 1.7.17