Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Franklin D. Israel papers
Date (inclusive): 1967-1996
Israel, Franklin D.
557.6 linear feet
(357 boxes, 405 flatfiles, 23 boxed rolls)
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
Los Angeles-based architect Frank Israel contributed substantially toward the architectural discourse of the 1980s and early
1990s, and served as a key link between the modernist generation of California architects and the work of current practitioners.
The archive is comprised of about 8,000 original drawings and prints, 38 models, photographs, articles, and extensive office
records and correspondence files that encompass Israel's design process while also providing insight into the establishment
of firms and modern architectural business practice.
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Language: Collection material is in
Franklin D. Israel was born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 2, 1945. He received his architectural training at Yale University
and at Columbia University, where he earned his master's degree in 1971. Two years later, Israel was awarded the Rome Prize.
His two year stay in Rome proved extremely important not only because of his studies of the Italian and Northern European
Baroque, but also because of his introduction to the work of the Italian architect Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978) and his encounters
with American practitioners, such as Richard Meier, and architectural historians such as James Ackerman. Israel moved to Los
Angeles in 1977 to teach architecture at UCLA and start his own architectural design office. He was soon employed in the film
industry, working as a set designer for several movies including
Star Trek: The Motion Picture. This time spent in the film studios enabled him to secure a number of early projects from clients in the entertainment industry,
including actor Joel Grey and film director Robert Altman, for whom he designed houses. He also designed office buildings
for film and record production companies in Hollywood.
Israel's earliest work is decidedly postmodern. Having studied with Robert A.M. Stern and Romaldo Giurgola, two leaders of
the postmodern era in New York, Israel was well trained to look at historical precedent and adopt details from buildings created
in the past into his own designs. His Clark House (Hollywood, 1980, unexecuted) is probably the best example. Based on Vignola's
Villa Farnese in Caprarola (1559-1573), the house is – as is the historical example – pentagonal in shape with a circular
court in its center. The proportions of all rooms around the court were determined by those of the Villa Farnese. The facades,
however, were loose adaptations of the 16th-century example and were designed to frame the view from each side of the building.
Israel began to study the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolph Schindler, Richard Neutra, and other modernists in the region
soon after his arrival in Los Angeles, where Southern California modernist architecture as a whole became a rich source of
inspiration for Israel's design work. Historical references to the classical architecture of Italy and France soon disappeared
from his studio and a new formal language took root in which one can recognize details borrowed from architects he admired
but integrated into solutions entirely his own. Engaging with the conflict between organic and tectonic architecture, he sought
to combine the two, to give his buildings a solid structure and then add a skin that, rather than being no more than a wrap
around the space (as was typical in the work of early 20th-century modernists), instead draws attention to the form and makes
the abstract structure more intimate. His buildings always combine a smoothly surfaced concrete, steel, or hardwood structure
with wood and stucco shapes painted in intense, Barragan-like colors. Colorful and playful, his buildings are rendered warmer
and more palatable than the sterile white, modernist architecture of the periods immediately before and after the Second World
War, and it was these characteristics that made him famous and brought him numerous clients.
Though he had moved away from the use of specific historical precedents, Israel remained interested in history, making distinctions
between perpetuating traditions and creating memorable spatial patterns based on universal scenarios he saw as being used
repeatedly throughout history. Placed in former industrial buildings or warehouses, offices such as those for Propaganda Films
or Virgin Records are organized as small villages or, as Israel himself liked to call them, "cities within." Israel connected
the various elements of an office (meeting rooms, workstations, and editing rooms) through streets and plazas. In the Propaganda
Films office, there is even one meeting room that looks like a baptistery placed on a piazza next to a ship- or church-like
group of executive offices. Such references to memory and historic precedents presented within a modern context are perfect
examples of the architectural debate of the period, when alternatives were sought for a modernism that had lost all its glamor
for a younger generation.
Frank Israel died June 10, 1996 due to complication from AIDS. At the age when most architects are still trying to find the
ideal client and job, Israel had already created a substantial body of work, had had two monographic exhibitions at major
art museums (the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, 1988, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, 1995), and counted
the most prestigious architects in the country (including Richard Meier, Robert A.M. Stern, Richard Weinstein, and especially
Frank Gehry and Philip Johnson) amongst his greatest supporters.
Open for use by qualified researchers, with the exception of the unreformatted audio-visual material, computer files and the
architectural drawings. Due to privacy issues, Boxes 231A-231D and 325-328 are sealed until 2062.
Franklin D. Israel Papers, 1967-1996, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2009.M.6
Acquired in 2009.
In 2012 with grant funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), Laura Dominguez and Mitchell Erzinger
processed the collection and created the inventory under the supervision of Ann Harrison. The descriptive notes were derived
from curatorial records.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Franklin D. Israel papers detail the short but substantial career of the prominent Los Angeles-based architect and his
design firm, encompassing design processes while also providing insight into the establishment of firms and modern architectural
business practice. The archive is an important resource for researchers looking to study in greater detail the developments
in California architecture after modernism had fallen out of fashion.
Series I contains project drawings and records, with the bulk of the material comprised of architectural projects from the
late-1980s to the mid-1990s. Original drawings, prints, models, photographs, and extensive documentation and correspondence
files form the core of this series. Most of Israel's creative output is represented here, from private residences such as
the Goldberg/Bean House (Hollywood, 1991) and the Drager House (Berkeley, CA, 1992), both of which received "Record Houses"
awards, to the business offices of film and record production companies such as Propaganda Films (Hollywood, 1988) and Virgin
Records (Beverly Hills, 1991). Other notable projects include the art pavilion for Frederick Weisman (Beverly Hills, 1991),
built to house one of the largest private collections of contemporary art in the world. Instances of Israel's non-architectural
design work and consulting, including furniture and interior design, are also represented.
Series II documents the professional career of Frank Israel. The bulk of this series includes extensive administrative and
financial documentation of Israel's design firm, Franklin D. Israel Design Associates (FDIDA), and materials related to exhibitions,
articles, photographs, and publication files, including production materials for larger publications such as Rizzoli International's
1992 monograph surveying the work of Frank Israel. Documentation of other professional activities, such as service on competition
juries, and lectures are also included along with files relating to Israel's education and teaching career, awards and honors,
articles and ephemera written by Frank Israel, and general correspondence.
Series III, a small series of personal papers, completes the archive.
Arranged in three series:
.Series I. Project records, 1972-1996
Series II. Other professional papers, 1967-1996
Series III. Personal papers, 1973-1996
Subjects - Topics
Architectural practice--United States
Architecture, Modern--20th century--California, Southern
Genres and Forms of Material
Architectural drawings (visual works)
Architectural drawings--United States--20th century