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Professor Anthony Fontenot receives $15k grant from Princeton for new book on architect Gregory Ain

Sean Joyner
Jul 9, '21 3:41 PM EST
Photo from "Gregory Ain: Low-Cost Modern Housing and The Construction of a Social Landscape." The exhibition took place April 4th to April 26th at the WUHO Gallery in Hollywood. © Woodbury University
Photo from "Gregory Ain: Low-Cost Modern Housing and The Construction of a Social Landscape." The exhibition took place April 4th to April 26th at the WUHO Gallery in Hollywood. © Woodbury University

The Barr Ferree Foundation Fund for Publications at Princeton University has awarded Professor Anthony Fontenot a $15,000 grant to support the publication of his forthcoming book by MIT Press titled Gregory Ain and the Construction of a Social Landscape, scheduled to be released in spring 2022.  

Gregory Ain (1908–1988) was a Southern California architect and remains relatively unknown. During the 1930s and 1940s, Ain collaborated closely with notable figures, including Rudolph Schindler, Richard Neutra, and Charles and Ray Eames. Ain was also friends with the architectural photographer Julius Shulman and the architectural historian and critic Esther McCoy. 

This is the first book to focus specifically on Ain’s housing projects, which include Dunsmuir Flats (1937), Park Planned Homes (1947), Avenel Cooperative (1948), Mar Vista Housing (1948), and Community Homes Cooperative (1946–48, unbuilt). 

This book explores how these housing projects—many of which were based on the cooperative model and were racially mixed, promoting equality and racial integration—fused Ain’s interest in radical left-wing politics and design. In 1945 Ain began collaborating with landscape architect Garrett Eckbo (1910–2000). Together, they developed an innovative approach to neighborhood design, which involved the creation of subtle forms of collective spaces to create a “social landscape” through the integration of architecture, planning, and landscape.

While challenging the status quo, these projects attracted the attention of J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who branded Ain “the most dangerous architect in America.” Following the anti-communist witch-hunts of the McCarthy era, Ain’s professional prominence faded into near oblivion. 

A key goal of this book is to recover his legacy and assess his extraordinary contribution to low-cost modern housing.