Last month, Tim Barber Ltd. was awarded a 2016 Historic Preservation Award by the City of Pasadena for our work on the historic former Charles Richter Laboratory property. Now a single family residence, this was the first building to house the Caltech Seismological Laboratory, or “Seismo” Lab, from 1937 to 1958, under the guidance of Charles Richter himself, who conducted early studies and experiments at the house and its grounds during this period. Designed by noted architect Reginald Johnson in 1921, the modest Spanish Revival two-story building belies 24” thick concrete walls and floor slabs that comprise a structure intended to sustain explosive impact and heavy equipment. The lab was designated a National Historic Monument in 2006.
The lab was acquired by Heidi and Corey Watson after previous development efforts to tear it down failed once the house was protected by its historical designation. Instead, the Watson family chose to lovingly restore the exterior and convert the lab into their permanent home. Tim Barber, Ltd. was brought on board in 2012 to design an ambitious master plan that called for additional structures to supplement the original building. As part of its first phase, the scope included a new detached cabana at the rear of the property designed to complement the original house, along with a swimming pool and spa. In a joint collaboration with Laurie Lewis Landscape Design, Tim and Supervising Project Manager, Leonardo d’Anconia, created a series of strategic retaining walls to contain the rising elevations of the site. Along the way, they created fountain patios, a BBQ area, an outdoor fireplace and swimming pool terrace and a vineyard, all on different levels, integrating the mature and protected oak trees on the grounds.
The ceremony by the City of Pasadena Historical Preservation Commission was held on a lovely summer evening at the Blacker House, the Greene & Greene Craftsman masterpiece which became a catalyst for the historical preservation movement in Pasadena. The Commission issued preservation award certificates to the Watson Family, Laurie Lewis, Leonardo d’Anconia and Tim Barber for their collaboration in breathing new life into an old building that was never intended to be a house. In the process, the entire team helped to make a home.