Craig Ellwood was not a licensed architect. Yet critics rank him as one of the most influential designers in the United States.
What he lacked in formal education he made up for with his charismatic personality, an eye for good design, self-promotion, and ambition.
An avid admirer of Mies van der Rohe, Ellwood’s architectural career took off while working as a cost estimator. According to an article published in the LA Times “Ellwood got work as a cost estimator with the contractors Lamport, Cofer, Salzman, who built for a number of prominent Modernist architects.” The firm served as contractors for the house that Charles and Ray Eames designed for themselves as Case Study House 8. They also built Eames’ and Eero Saarinen’s Case Study House 9 for John Entenza. Meeting there for the first time, Ellwood and Entenza hit it off, and after Ellwood established his own design office in the early 1950s, the editor of Arts & Architecture selected him to design Case Study houses 16, 17 and 18. Built between 1952 and 1958 with crucial design support from Becsky, Jacks and Lomax, these flat-roofed, post-and-beam, horizontally oriented structures of steel and glass, with accents of brick and concrete block, epitomized Entenza’s — and Ellwood’s — penchant for elegantly minimalist, finely detailed architecture.”
In addition to his work on the Case Study Houses, Ellwood designed the Scientific Facilities, the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and the Smith House in Brentwood.