I think many people don’t realize how much of an architecture’s work doesn’t come to fruition. His career was impacted by that, and yet it didn’t seem to derail him.
Well, he had to, I mean, he was supporting his family and supporting himself. They weren’t living like Rockefellers here; they were trades people. If something was great, but didn’t get built, I thought that was important, because it didn’t get built because of the recession, or something. He always said, “I would do my greatest design and then boom, of course, there’d be a recession.”
What’s interesting is he’s working on a house now that when I saw the plans, I said, “Hugh, this is the best thing you’ve ever done.” There were so many houses that he designed in the 1990s that were more organic in nature, like John Lautner’s two houses up at Southridge. For whatever reason, because there were recessions or something, they never got built. He designed a house for himself like that, which never got built. He has a client who bought land on where he was actually going to build one of his houses and designed this house that’s absolutely magnificent. Hopefully it gets built, but I mean, the drawings are just magnificent. It’s amazing because it’s completely new, but even there are Hugh Kaptur touches throughout.
Do you have a favorite Kaptur design?
I have a few. I think the William Holden house in Southridge is one of my favorites there. My actual favorite thing in the book is there was a community that was being proposed way up, I think maybe north of Vista Chino called Palm Springs Panorama. One day Hugh, he didn’t want these drawings to go to the museum, so he pulled up these huge sheets. I almost fainted they were so amazing. I devoted like four or five pages to just these drawings — they were never built. You can see some of these being adapted for other things, but the drawings are just so dynamic, so evocative of the period. He’s just such a great artist that I think that’s my favorite part of the book is those drawings.