Steven Ehrlich donates professional archive to Architecture and Design Collection at UCSB’s AD&A Museum

The Art, Design & Architecture Museum (AD&A Museum) at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) recently announced that Los Angeles architect Steven Ehrlich has donated artifacts from his personal archive to the institution. Ehrlich’s donation consists of original drawings, photographs, sketchbooks, presentation boards, and 15 small models from his decades in practice.

Today, Ehrlich’s drawings and photography produced between 1958 and 1977 are held at the Getty Research Institute (GRI). The ephemera gifted to UCSB tells Ehrlich’s professional story that began in 1979 when he founded his practice, Ehrlich Architects, which eventually became Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (EYRC Architects) in 2015.

The archives now in the AD&A Museum’s collection document the architect’s application of “multicultural modernism” in his professional endeavors. The California architect’s commitment to vernacular design has drawn comparisons between himself and other luminaries like Yona Friedman and Bernard Rudofsky.

“Ehrlich’s multicultural modernism refers to an architectural approach grounded in the vernacular context of a project, rather than adhered to stylistic fads or movements,” said Silvia Perea, curator of UC Santa Barbara’s Architecture and Design Collection (ADC). “This inherent condition ensures the site specificity of each of Ehrlich’s commissions while enhancing the cultural dimension of their locales.”

06 Kalfus Studio 1980
Photograph of Kalfus Studio (Julius Shulman/Courtesy EYRC)

Ehrlich’s pluralist design philosophy is deeply influenced by his extended stay in Africa as a young professional, AD&A Museum officials said. After his graduation from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1969, Ehrlich joined the Peace Corps and served Morocco’s government in Marrakesh’s Urban Planning and Architecture Department. It was also during that time when he taught at Ahmadu Bello University in northern Nigeria.

The architect eventually returned home and founded his California practice in 1979. What followed were a series of playful modernist projects; many of which were photographed by the world-renowned photographer Julius Shulman. These include Kalfus Studio (1980), Julius Shulman’s private residence in Brentwood (1989), Sony Child Care Center in Culver City (1995), an addition to the Neutra Beach House (1999), Ehrlich’s own home in Venice (2002), and the Ridge Mountain House in Palm Springs (2017). Ehrlich has also undertaken projects in Arizona, Texas, and Abu Dhabi.

10 Schulman Residence 1992
Shulman Residence circa 1992 (Tom Bonner/Courtesy EYRC)

Moving forward, officials from both GRI and AD&A Museum will collaborate in cross referencing their records and staging Ehrlich’s work in exhibitions and publications, officials said.

“Ehrlich’s oeuvre and biography will be in conversation with several special collections held at the GRI. The documentation shows a direct connection to Bernard Rudofsky’s notable work Architecture Without Architects. His practice also connects to some of the projects developed by Yona Friedman in early 1960,” said Maristella Casciato, senior curator and head of Architectural Collections at the GRI.

Gabriel Ritter, the AD&A Museum’s director, added: “With the ADC’s longstanding focus on the built environment of Southern California, Steven’s architectural practice will be right at home in our archives. It is a great privilege to be able to share his work with students, faculty, and researchers at UCSB for decades to come.”

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