Bernard Juge dies; Tahitian Lodge designed for Marlon Brando

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There are few who could say they met Buckminster Fuller, lived in Rudolph Schindler’s house, then helped preserve it, then camped out on a private South Pacific atoll to build a rustic lodge for Marlon Brando. In fact, there may only be one: Los Angeles architect Bernard Judge.

Judge, a designer intrigued by experimental, low-cost designs that reused materials and lightly sat on the ground, died in his sleep on November 15 at the age of 90. winning building of its own design: a treehouse-inspired home perched on four steel columns against a steep slope in the Hollywood Hills that has been described as “a lark of a house” by a writer from design of The Times in 1977 and featured on the cover of Sunset magazine in 1978. His death was confirmed by his wife, Blaine Mallory, and daughter from a previous marriage, Sabrina Judge.

Sabrina Judge described a curious man who had a constant passion for design that went far beyond the limits of “Capital A” architecture. “It wasn’t just about the buildings,” she says, “it was about the way people lived. ”

“It seems fashionable or trite to say it,” she added, “because a lot of people are saying it now, but he had a strong connection and a belief in living off the land.… He wanted to live lightly on the earth and be anchored in the environment.

During an unorthodox career, Judge did just that.

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While still an architecture student at USC in the late 1950s, he bonded with the architect Jeffrey Lindsay, a sidekick of famed futurist Buckminster Fuller who like Fuller also designed geodesic domes and who at that time lived in Southern California. (In the 1950s Lindsay created a domed theater for the San Diego Zoo). Lindsay provided Judge with a prototype dome, which the student then transformed into the skin of a radical-looking house in Beachwood Canyon.

Within its spherical outlines, Judge placed a two-story core that contained an open-plan layout that included living, dining, and sleeping areas. The house was such a sight – especially in the evening, when it was lit up – that it landed in the pages of Life magazine in 1960 as a symbol of LA’s forward-looking qualities even before it was complete. A 1962 newsreel described it as “looking like something to do with space”.

While officially called the House of Triponent, Judge’s design unofficially became known as the “bubble,” especially after its completion in 1962. In that year, it appeared on the cover of design magazine. interior of the Times in an otherworldly photo by Julius Shulman under the headline: “A plastic bubble high in the Hollywood Hills.”

The July 1, 1962 cover of Los Angeles Times Home magazine features Triponent House, designed by Bernard Judge, then an architecture student at USC. The house, which offered little privacy or air conditioning, was short lived.

(Los Angeles Times)

The judge saw design as a way to build homes quickly, cheaply, and lightly. He and various other USC students had built it and for a time he and his first wife, ceramicist Dora De Larios, lived there.

“Man shouldn’t have to spend most of his working life paying for the roof over his head,” the judge told Times editor Dan MacMasters of his concept. “We have the industrial and technical potential to build low cost homes which can be rewarding and exciting experiences. ”

The house, however, was impractical – offering little privacy or air conditioning. “It was not comfortable,” says Sabrina Judge (who is the architect’s daughter from her marriage to De Larios). “It was like a greenhouse.

The dome was eventually given to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Over the next decade, Judge connected with the historic Schindler House – and it happened in the most curious way.

In the 1970s he placed an ad stating that he wanted to live in “a garden atmosphere in the middle of the city”. He received a response from Pauline Schindler, who lived in the historic Kings Road house that her ex-husband, the Viennese-born Modernist Rudolph Schindler, had completed for their home in 1922. Today better known as Mak Art and Architecture Center, the house had been conceived as a community living experience, designed to be shared by two couples who occupied a combination of private and shared spaces on two adjoining L-shaped structures – all nestled in a generous garden.

Over the years the house has been repainted and survived a fire. In the 1970s, Schindler lived there alone. As Judge told The Times in 1980, she responded to the ad on a conditional basis: “I have what you want if I like your job.”

She did it. The judge and his young family have moved in.

It has remained tied to the site, in one form or another, for decades. In fact, for many years he ran his business, Environmental Systems Group, from home. And shortly before Schindler’s death in 1977, Judge and a team of architects and historians came together to establish the Friends of the Schindler House, the association which acquired the structure for the sake of preservation. The judge also worked on the initial restoration project. This project has led to many more around LA

Mallory Judge said her father was deeply inspired by Rudolph Schindler’s design. “He was crazy about Schindler and the whole idea of ​​interior-exterior walls and sloping slabs and the use of concrete,” she says. In addition, he had a “great admiration” for Pauline. “She was a bit bohemian,” she says. “They were simpatico in terms of politics and lifestyle.”

It was during this time that Judge found himself with one of his most curious architectural commissions: to design a series of rustic bungalows on Tetiaroa, an uninhabited atoll owned by Marlon Brando in French Polynesia. The judge met the actor through an entrepreneur and the couple hit it off.

Brando first laid eyes on the atoll, which is a short propeller plane flight from Tahiti, after spotting the locations of his 1962 maritime epic, “Mutiny on the Bounty”. The actor’s hope had been to build some sort of accommodation in which to lodge friends, paying visitors, researchers and others. Development never took off as planned.

Brando’s financial problems and worries about damage to fragile atoll ecosystems limited the scope of the project: only the airstrip and a dozen rustic bungalows were eventually built. And the conditions were – literally – wild. There was no place to live, no electricity, no commerce of any kind. “It was such a Robinson Crusoe experience,” says Sabrina, who was there for spells during construction. “We had to fish for dinner every night.”

But his father loved every minute of it, taking great care to recycle the felled trees when creating the airstrip as a building material for the bungalows. All the structures were in the open, built in a Tahitian style.

“On Tetiaroa, it was about using what was there, not to bring anything extremely foreign,” she said. “He wanted to stay in this landscape for building materials. ”

In 2011, the judge published a tome memoir / coffee table combination of his experiences on Tietaroa titled “Waltzing with Brando: planning a paradise in Tahiti.” A film based on the book, directed by Bill Fishman, and starring Billy Zane as Brando, is currently under construction.

For Judge, the Tetiaroa project, like so many others, says Mallory, was about “the adventure of design, the success of design.”

You could say it was a profession that ran in his blood.

Judge was born June 9, 1931 in Brooklyn, son of Hélène Chatelain, painter, and Joseph Judge, architect. Her father’s work took the family all over the world, and as a child Judge lived in France, Nicaragua and Mexico. After high school, he served in a mobile construction battalion in the US Navy, and then spent a year studying architecture in Paris at the École des Beaux Arts.

Architecture eventually brought him to Los Angeles. Judge completed his training at USC, studying with Gregory Ain and Conrad Buff III and working on the Bubble House, the project that would put him on the map.

Years later, Judge described the project fondly. In a 2011 email interview with blog author John Crosse Architectural History of Southern California, he remembers being “aware of the weather outside at all times”, whether it was day or night. “It created a heartwarming awareness. ”

Unfortunately, the transparency also encouraged the curious to come and take a look. It was boring, but it wasn’t that bad, he recalls: “I had my first client like this.

Besides Mallory and his daughter Sabrina, Judge is survived by his second wife, Ulrike Zillner; one stepson, Paul Ricklen; and two grandchildren. De Larios, with whom he was married until the 1980s, died in 2018.

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