People in Your Neighborhood: La Jolla architect Eugene Ray is still learning and creating at 90

People in Your Neighborhood: La Jolla architect Eugene Ray is still learning and creating at 90

Only a handful of architect Eugene Ray’s models have been developed because he began his profession in the 1950s. Nonetheless his effect is considerable. As founder and head of San Diego Condition University’s environmental style and design system from 1969 to 1996, he mentored students who intended dozens of San Diego buildings.

“He was an extremely inspirational particular person for me as a youthful pupil for the reason that he assumed and taught otherwise,” said San Diego architect Frank Wolden.

RNT Architecture principal Kotaro Nakamura stated, “When I was uncovered to Eugene’s considering, it opened my eyes that the developed atmosphere is a lot much more than flooring, partitions and roofs.”

Chikako Terada, Nakamura’s associate at RNT, said she realized from Ray the “vibrational” energy of areas to provoke “Wow!” sensations that words simply cannot capture.

Architect Eugene Ray's Silver Ship home in La Jolla, seen in an old photo.

Architect Eugene Ray’s previous La Jolla dwelling on Nautilus Road, recognised as the Silver Ship, nevertheless exists, but its roof style has been transformed by additional latest residents. Ray took this photo when he lived there.

(Eugene Ray)

Even though Ray’s students have recognized innumerable properties, the prime instance of his possess architecture is the hillside La Jolla home on Nautilus Road recognised as the Silver Ship, which he created and designed of concrete and wood with his pupils in the late 1970s.

Silver Ship is a “stretched dome” supported by a cross-hatch vault of wood beams that resembles the diamond pattern on a rattlesnake. Ray took the strategy from “lamella roofs” created by early-20th-century German engineer Friedrich Zollinger. The thought also was employed at the Houston Astrodome and the Superdome in New Orleans.

A collage of Eugene Ray's design and construction of his Silver Ship home in La Jolla.

Eugene Ray put alongside one another this collage on the layout and construction of his Silver Ship house in La Jolla in the late 1970s.

(Eugene Ray)

Ray marketed Silver Ship decades back subsequent the loss of life of his initial spouse, Marian. A subsequent transform included a metallic roof and included up hand-bent redwood siding with corrugated metal. Without doubt it is now far more weatherproof, but to Ray, it’s further than recognition.

Architect Eugene Ray stands in his home at the Chateau La Jolla retirement community.

Architect Eugene Ray stands in his dwelling at the Chateau La Jolla retirement neighborhood.

(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Now he lives with his second wife, Marianne, at Chateau La Jolla, a seaside retirement local community throughout the street from redwood cottages exactly where he lived as a youthful architect and blocks from the Pink Roost and Purple Relaxation cottages he aided preserve.

At Ray’s roomy, sunny condominium at Chateau La Jolla are countless numbers of drawings and collages he has assembled in excess of the many years. They incorporate his elaborate layouts with visuals from architectural, individual and historical sources, with themes highlighted in unique rub-on lettering that wraps curved corners. He claims science-fiction author Ray Bradbury after proposed a film incorporating the graphics.

Even closets and loos serve as display spaces. Artifacts cover virtually each and every obtainable area. On a living room table are global style journals these as Domus and A+U that featured his get the job done. In his workplace are hundreds of publications, a fraction of the 10,000 he after owned.

Architect Eugene Ray shows his Radiant Gateway design, once proposed as a fiber-optic overpass.

Architect Eugene Ray demonstrates his Radiant Gateway style, after proposed as a fiber-optic overpass around Interstate 5 coming into San Diego.

(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

His extensive archive at SDSU and at house is managed by his former student and longtime close friend David Fobes, a San Diego artist and furniture designer who taught at SDSU and is effective intently with Ray. Thanks to Fobes, lots of videos of Ray’s lectures from the past 50 decades can be uncovered on the web. Fobes also co-curated a 2019 “Radiant Architecture” exhibit in San Diego devoted to Ray, with types and wall-measurement panels showcasing projects, mostly unbuilt, from Tanzania and Tehran to California, Hong Kong and Bohol Island in the Philippines.

When Ray explains “radiant architecture,” he speaks of biomorphic structures, biotronic electrical power and synergetic environments. Resources of inspiration operate from Nikola Tesla (“If you want to uncover the secrets of the universe, imagine in phrases of power, frequency and vibration”) to Bugatti sports activities automobiles, and from character to extraterrestrial daily life. Architects R. Buckminster Fuller, Frank Lloyd Wright, Bruce Goff and Goff’s College of Oklahoma colleague Herb Greene — whose buildings have been featured in the 1940s Daily life journals that Ray’s father brought residence — also are in the mix.

Ray says he admires the radical styles of his peers at Archigram in London as properly as the operate of architect Paulo Soleri, who founded the Arcosanti experimental local community in Arizona. Ray is fascinated with Imhotep, a pyramid designer in historical Egypt, and with Native American tipi dwellings — sturdy conical material buildings not unlike the types created by Ray and his learners. Yrs in the past, Ray took a course to the Yucatan to examine Mayan architecture.

According to a paper Ray organized for a French govt symposium on vitality in 1985, radiant architecture “explores relationships between architecture and energy” and posits that “architecture can be structured to enlarge and immediate all-natural strength systems for human nicely-becoming.”

Solar electric power is just part of the strategy. Cones, domes and spheres transmit “bioenergy” to folks inside of them, Ray suggests.

These types of forms are further than the architectural mainstream, which is a person cause most of his models were under no circumstances constructed. Cubes, squares and rectangles are much more common and marketable.

Elements and strategies he favors also tumble exterior the mainstream. Years in the past he intended a La Mesa property that includes domes of ferrocement — a mortar that is distribute in excess of steel armatures to make lightweight, strong buildings. In spite of a cellular phone-e book-size set of engineering specs calculated on UC San Diego’s supercomputer, the city of La Mesa would not approve the building for the reason that it did not in shape existing codes.

A person of Ray’s collages depicts an elongated framework that resembles the ribbed body of a insect, anchored by volumes resembling plant or animal sorts. “If the Earth was going to expand properties, they would not be containers,” he mentioned.

UFO come upon

It is well-documented that Ray characteristics his relentless imaginative spark to a boyhood come across with a strange item.

“At 15, I saw a UFO above our household in Baton Rouge — a cylindrical craft, cigar-formed,” he said. “A bunch of us ended up traveling massive kites made by my father. … We were being lying there watching our kites, and all of a sudden this craft flew slowly overhead from west to east. And to this working day I have the sensation they have been viewing us. Undoubtedly my function has cosmic consciousness for the reason that of that.”

“Alchemy” is just one of Ray’s beloved words. It dates from ancient situations and elixirs organized by shamans and has developed above hundreds of years to encompass science, engineering, metaphysics, theology and philosophy.

An architectural drawing by Eugene Ray shows his monocoque shell structures.

An architectural drawing by Eugene Ray reveals his monocoque shell buildings.

(Eugene Ray)

Ray studied architecture and taught at Louisiana Condition College and Tulane, the place he acquired a master’s diploma. The area had a potent affect on him owing to its assorted lifestyle and his household ties. He recalls the early put up-and-beam homes he intended there, together with a tiny jazz venue in New Orleans’ French Quarter. There also was a plantation owned by distant kinfolk that showcased a domed framework.

In the late 1960s, San Diego architect Lloyd Ruocco and his wife, Ilse, an artist and a textile designer who taught at SDSU, recruited Ray to launch an architecture system in the art section. Ray branded it “environmental design” to mirror a wide mission incorporating programs in art, sculpture, pictures, ecology and engineering.

He invited radical architects to lecture, these as Goff, L.A. modernist John Lautner, Archigram representatives and Soleri. Ray suggests some lectures have been boycotted by some San Diego architects, but he was eventually invited by Archigram’s Peter Prepare dinner to lecture twice at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London.

Computer system-aided style was section of Ray’s curriculum extended right before CAD software package became normal. He and his students experimented with superior-power ceramic and glass with the intent to make light-weight, very affordable buildings. He remembers how his college students bested college students from UCLA, USC, UC Berkeley and Cal Poly in a competitiveness. Their “biomorphic tensile structure” withstood an overnight windstorm, although a concrete block structure by yet another group collapsed, he claims.

However it served start crucial San Diego occupations, Ray’s SDSU plan was eradicated shortly following his retirement in 1996. He had arrive down with malaria during a take a look at to Brazil, and when he returned, he couldn’t proceed teaching all seven of the department’s environmental style courses. Without having Ray, support for the plan evaporated.

Seeking ahead

Considering that his retirement, Ray has devoted a lot of his time to genealogy. He stated he traces his lineage to the medieval Knights Templar, whose fortresses, he claims, ended up present day in their style.

Ray and Marianne created a pilgrimage to the Chateau du Clos Lucé in France, where by Leonardo da Vinci, another of Ray’s heroes, expended his final several years as court docket artist and architect to King Francis I, and where designs of da Vinci’s inventions are on display screen.

As he appears to be back on a life devoted to converting skeptics, Ray claimed he’s optimistic about his legacy.

“My legacy is as strong now as it is ever been,” he mentioned. “I have a big intercontinental status. The material that is been published close to the earth, lectures and exhibitions in 12 nations, has given me a big viewers. When I die, I believe that my legacy is heading to extend substantially.” ◆