ishi captured 355  ishi 2 at UC Museum of Anthropology 350

Ishi died 100 years ago, March 25, 1916–anthropology’s man of two worlds, the last stone age man, the last wild man, museum specimen, and closest friend.   Raised on the Ishi story, we commemorate this sad centennial with reflections on his friendships cut-short, his camping experience, his influence on modern archery, and beyond to his architectural influence and its own untimely end.


Could this design from the Housekeeping Campground Map in Yosemite Valley be the original inspiration for LA architect Rudolf Schindler’s radical home design on King’s Road? (See our post Sun-worshipers and Free-thinkers.)   As Schindler describes it,  the home “… fulfils the basic requirement for a camper’s shelter: a protected back, an open front, a fireplace and a roof…”( ‘A Co-operative Dwelling’ , T-Square, February 1932).

In 1921 amidst the falling oak leaves of September and October Rudolf and wife Pauline  enjoyed an idyllic few weeks in camp shelters in Yosemite Valley.  Having just terminated his employment with Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolf and Pauline planned their modern life and modern home in Los Angeles. Four independent and  utilitarian studios conjoined in a communal relationship would provide a background for work and play.  They would be joined in this experimental four-plex by housemates and friends Clyde and Marian Chace. 


A sea change occured in home design and life style in mid-century California as promoted in the work of Schindler, Neutra and the Case Study House program and popularized by Eichler planned developments and ranch style homes.  Providing modern and positive values of casual living and connection with the sun and outdoors, suburban home production flourished in an anti-urban, auto-based culture made concrete through asocial town planning.  These mid-century modern designs were sensitive to personal comfort and environment, but they were insensitive to the environment at a community and global level with sprawling development actively replacing positive neighborhood and urban pattern.

Established commuter rail lines, like the Red Car lines in LA, were ripped up for freeway right of ways promoted by the oil and auto industry.  Downtown buildings were demolished for parking lots and block-style housing projects with a misguided idea of how to re-populate urban cores.