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Byrom Lends Artistic Hand To Edward Killingsworth Biography

Published: July 1, 2013

The School of Art’s Andrew Byrom recently capped his seventh year on campus with the design of a biography about CSULB’s defining architect Edward A. Killingsworth, along with the creation of an historic exhibit at the Architecture and Design Museum in Los Angeles.

Byrom’s design for Edward A. Killingsworth: An Architect’s Life by Jennifer Volland and Cara Mullio debuted in April. After his architectural education at USC and service in World War II, Killingsworth settled into his home town of Long Beach and into an architectural practice that lasted almost half a century.

An exhibition designed by Byrom called “Windshield Perspective” opened on May 16 and continues through July 9 at the Architecture and Design Museum on Wilshire Boulevard. “Windshield Perspective” is part of “Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A.” The collaboration, supported by the Getty Foundation, brings together several local cultural institutions including MOCA, the Getty and LACMA for a wide-ranging look at the postwar built environment of the city as a whole, from its residential architecture to its freeway network.

“A calm entrance opens into a visual wonderland,” Byrom explained. “The viewer will navigate 15 large-scale totems featuring rescued art work from the boulevard such as a folk art rendering of the Virgin Mary and hand-made signage.”

“Windshield Perspective” focuses on a short yet dense stretch of Beverly Boulevard from Normandie to Virgil. This drive along Beverly stands for hundreds, if not thousands, of daily journeys through the city’s landscape, Byrom explained. But a choreographed drive, recreated within the museum, reveals the essence of the city—messy, disorderly, impromptu and vital. “`Windshield Perspective’ provided a way of seeing and a sight to be seen,” said Byrom. “The windshield is converted from scrim to lens.”

Byrom last worked for the A+D Museum two years ago to curate and design an exhibition on the design philosophy of Charles and Ray Eames called “Eames Words”. “These exhibition projects are huge collaborative efforts and I wanted to share this side of design with my students. We invited the students to have a private viewing before everyone else,” Byrom recalled. “Things like this help the students to feel part of the project.”

His design work on the book Edward Killingsworth: An Architect’s Life was much more of a solitary affair. After working closely with the authors to get the tone and feel right, Byrom spent over eight months laying out the in-depth text and hundreds of photographs, renderings, plans and elevations, many of them unseen before.

In 1962, Killingsworth’s firm was selected as CSULB’s master planning architect. When he was first appointed, Killingsworth went right to the source—the students—spending much of his time getting their thoughts as to just how the campus should be developed.

Architectural historians Volland and Mullio recognized Killingsworth’s importance while researching their first book, Long Beach Architecture: The Unexpected Metropolis (2005). They conducted interviews with Killingsworth himself and with his family and associates as well as explored the firm’s extensive archives. The book offers in-depth examinations of 42 of the most important projects the firm produced, from small residential pavilions to enormous hotel and resort developments.

“There are beautiful buildings on this campus, some of them hidden by not-so-beautiful buildings,” Byrom said. “I am especially impressed by the International House at the east entrance to campus. Utilizing a modern lodge design, the two-story hall includes double rooms in a two- or three-room suite design with a shared bathroom. It’s the first building I noticed when I visited campus for an interview eight years ago and its a sight to see. I knew right away there was something interesting here hidden amongst some of the other buildings.”

Andrew Byrom

Byrom thinks one reason he was the right choice to design the Killingsworth biography was that he was not particularly aware of the architect before arriving in Long Beach.

“I admired the campus buildings without knowing who designed them or their architectural importance,” he recalled. “I live close to campus and I walk by his buildings every day. It reminded me of when I was 12 and saw Alfred Hitchcock’s `Rear Window’ which I loved without knowing anything about Hitchcock. My reaction to Killingsworth’s campus designs was the same. It felt like I had discovered something.”

His vision for the book is based on a very simple Killingsworth-like, page grid. “I found a beautiful Killingsworth line rendering and I was able to base the entire structure of the book on that one single image. It was a beautiful day when I found that drawing. As you read the book, you can follow the lines throughout. This may be only the kind of thing a designer would notice but I’d like to think readers will pick up on it, if only subconsciously,” he said.

Byrom is pleased by the Killingsworth biography’s breadth of coverage. “His master planning stretched from 1962 to 2004,” he explained. “I felt connected to furniture maker Charles Eames from a previous exhibit and that is what has happened here. When you get into a project and learn more about the subject, you can’t help but feel a connection. For instance, I love the image on the cover of Killingsworth in a garden with his dog. It is much more personal than the typical design drawing you see on most architecture book covers.”

Byrom’s designs have featured in Print magazine, Dwell, Creative Review, +81, IdN, and in numerous design books including New Typographic Design, Typo: The Beautiful World of Fonts, Type Addicted and Lettering & Type. Byrom’s work has been recognized with awards from the AIGA and The Type Directors Club. Last year he was voted as a member of the prestigious Alliance Graphique Internationale and he travels to London In September to address its annual congress.

Byrom feels the book and exhibit design drew him closer to Los Angeles. “I came from England, via Chicago, to California. I feel L.A.’s my place now. I’ve been lucky to have been asked to work on projects related to some iconic L.A. designers and landmarks.”