Quote of Note | Lisa Germany

“Although the bathroom [of the house that Harry Gesner designed for John Scantlin in 1965] was completely open to the bedroom, there was another approach to it—the one that most established the space as a grotto—via the six-foot-deep lap pool, which stretched ninety feet along the margin of the house at the foot of the glass facade of the living room. Making references to the exterior wall of the bathroom where the lap pool ended, Gesner says, ‘You could swim under it to get into the master bath. I disguised the passageway with a waterfall coming down from the wall into the pool, which disturbed the water in the pool so you couldn’t see that there was an opening.’ That was the idea until some years ago, when there was an incident involving the grotto entrance. After the J. Paul Getty Trust purchased the Scantlin house, which is on the same property and just down the hill from the new museum, it became the sporadic living quarters of the museum’s architect, Richard Meier, when he was in town working on the site. During that time it was discovered that a homeless person was entering the house via the grotto and actually lounging about the place in Meier’s clothes. After the incident, the Getty, which had decided to keep the structure and turn it into a meeting place for the museum’s board of directors, asked Gesner to handle the renovation. The redesign was sympathetic and respectful of the house overall, but the tropical master bathroom is gone (though the fieldstone grotto and plunge pool are still in place), the lap pool is now only twelve inches deep, and the secret passageway from the pool into the grotto is not to be found.”

Lisa Germany, in Houses of the Sundown Sea: The Architectural Vision of Harry Gesner (Abrams), the first book to examine the life and career of the 87-year-old self-taught architect