A Modernist Discovery in Pasadena

The Pasadena home Rapor reflects the modernist spirit of late architect Conrad Buff III, who built it in 1977. The current owners gave The Los Angeles Times a tour of this wonderful piece of architectural history. Buff was a partner of Buff, Straub & Hensman, which was responsible for distinctive California architecture, including two Case Study houses.

Rapor's first impression -- a stolidity, size and strength that belies its modest 1,600 square feet -- is typical of the later work of Buff & Hensman, says architectural historian John English.

"Often from the outside they can appear windowless and maybe not that inviting," he says. "But you can't read them from the outside; the house is designed to unfold itself and increase your experience of it as you walk into it."

The stained-glass doors lead up a cavernous flight of stairs. At the top, the sense of symmetry and order is immediately inviting: two sunbathed patios flank the walkway, facing east toward the morning sun and the mountains. One deck is for sunbathing; the other is a sitting area with a glass table that, typical of Buff's ingenuity, also functions as a skylight to the art studio below.

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A Modernist Discovery in Pasadena