Gregory Ain – a closer look

American born Gregory Ain (1908 – 1988), son of Eastern European immigrants, was part of the so-called “second generation” that flourished in post-war Los Angeles. He was close friends with Pauline and Dione Neutra and was a protégée of Rudolph Schindler. In the 1930s Gregory Ain had worked for Richard Neutra, first as a student apprentice and then as what Neutra called a “collaborator”.  Neutra’s and Ain’s relationship was ambivalent yet Neutra highly appreciated Ain’s complex personality, subtle intelligence, and his dark, quirky sense of humor.

Ain had an affinity with modernism’s Origins in Europe and Japan; he, in fact, was firmly situated within the tradition of the European avant-garde, a tradition passed down to him by his mentor Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra. It is said that early modernists such as those associated with the Bauhaus and The International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM) revolted against the influence of the French Ecole des Beaux-Arts, an international educational system that had been the paradigm of the nineteenth century.

Many of Ain’s upper-class residences, like the Margolis residence given the prominence of the Ben Margolis himself, became canonical signature projects since they treated wealthy people as common and they continued to employ a lean aesthetic of sacrifice.

At the height of his career, from the mid-1930s to the mid1950s, Ain was a well-known architect, a mayor figure even. He pioneered innovations in housing and house design. His works and ideas were constantly published and discussed in both the professional and popular press, and his national reputation reached its zenith in 1950, with the MoMA exhibition house.

It is a testament to his teaching talent that architects as successful as Frank Geary, Jon Jerde, and Bernard Judge have cited Ain as a major influence.

But it is to point out that for the most part, Ain did construct his own historical reception, as other modern architects such as Le Corbusier and Fran Lloyd Wright did. As brilliant as these architects were shaping their image for posterity, Ain was conversely negligent, making him a renegade, a brilliant rebellious architect amongst his polished colleagues.

Ain had a strong distaste for publicity which is the reason why a significant portion of Ain’s projects were not publicized at all, and not even professionally photographed.

Julius Shulman

Ain held a serious and complex set of attitudes toward architectural photography.  He was apparently dissatisfied with many of the photographers who were his contemporaries. Ain had a personal friendship with Julius Shulman dating back to the mid-1930s. “I went on to meet all the young architects [Gregory] Ain, [Rudolf] Schindler, Pierre Koenig. We were all in the same boat, young people beginning our work. With Gregory Ain, there was something about his architecture that I liked, and my liking the work made me respect it, and as a result, I was able to create these great compositions. I could transcend or transfigure or translate what the architect saw in his own work.” Yet Ain worked with 17 different photographers between 1936 and 1952.

For more information please visit the Los Angeles Conservancy website at: https://www.laconservancy.org/architects/gregory-ain

Los Angeles Times, Jan 24, 1988