Sunday, October 18, 2015

Triumphant Individualism: The Architecture that Inspired Ayn Rand

Halliburton House-Laguna Beach, CA. 
I suddenly got interested in local architecture this weekend. My primary motivation was the desire to find a local icon that would be easy to paint. Trish seemed interested in the adventure of it all so we started out by looking for the famous Horizon House in Laguna Niguel, checking out the Pynes Castle in Laguna Beach, but ended up most intrigued by the Halliburton House in Laguna Beach. 

The coolest thing about this house is that it was visited by the young, yet-to-be-famous Ayn Rand. Reportedly, it was the inspiration for the fictional Heller House that appears in Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead. The real life Halliburton House is indeed built on a cliff and seemingly arises out of it in a manner consistent with the novel protagonist Howard Roark's vision that a building should be a natural expression of its location. 

As Tore Boechmann writes in The Fountainhead as a Romantic Novel,” Roark's architectural principles are outlined in the novel’s opening chapter:

Here are my rules: what can be done with one substance must never be done with another. No two materials are alike. No two sites on earth are alike. No two buildings have the same prupose. The purpose, the site, the material determine the shape. Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it’s made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single themse, and to serve its own single purpose....Its maker gives it the soul and every wall, window and stairway to express it.
This pleasing consistency is evident to me even as I observe the Halliburton House in photos, in part, because it is made of reinforced, poured-in-place concrete boxes that blend into the colors of the exposed rock in the neighborhood. The home strikes me as a Hellenistic monument to the excesses of human idealism. It has views of both the ocean and the canyon below. It also features cantilevered stairs that hug the southwest corner of the home from the driveway up to the entry door. Although we did not go inside the house, I understand it contains a gallery, living and dining rooms, a small kitchen, two baths and three bedrooms. There is a deck on the roof that boasts unobstructed 360 degree views. 

Although I knew that it was also named the "Hangover House," Trish is the one who found this booze marinated title exhibited in the retaining wall near the entry.

At a time in our nation's history when collectivism and group
-think appear to be on the rise, I find it useful to be reminded of Any Rand's fierce, uncompromising faith in individualism. I am kind of proud to be living so close to the architectural achievement which apparently inspired a book like The Fountainhead and an iconic, independent character like Howard Roark. 


John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

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