Robert Arends

5 to Try: Magical Masterpieces of “San Diego’s Gaudi”

Ever wanted to know what it would be like to walk through the wondrous world of a Dr. Seuss book, with all of its quirky colorful shapes and landscapes? Well now you can at the Open House of the James Hubbell House and Studios in the East County community of Santa Ysabel (near Julian) on Father’s Day, June 19.

If you’re not familiar with Hubbell and his art or architectural creations, he is considered a “national treasure” known for his organic structures steeped in nature. The San Diego Union-Tribune even called Hubbell House & Studios one of the “Masterpieces in Our Midst.”

In addition to eight fantastical structures at his 40-acre artists complex, Hubbell has a few other stunning sculptural works sprinkled throughout San Diego County.

Following are five fun ones to try:

  1. Big/Main Studio at the Hubble House. Notice it’s resemblance to whale bones!

    Big Studio at Hubbell House and Studios.

  2. Boy’s House at Hubble House and Studios. This one is especially playful with its pools of colorful glass and mosaic tile flowing throughout.

    Boy's House, Hubbel House and Studios.

  3. Volcan Mountain Preserve entrance gate and sculpture in Julian. There’s something kind of sci-fi about this piece, like a space portal into nature!

    Beam me up, to Volcan Mountain!

  4. Sea Passage fountain and sculpture on Glorietta Bay in Coronado. This piece is very San Diego and fits perfectly with the beachy island vibe of Coronado.

    Hang 10 at Coronado's Sea Passage!

  5. Pacific Portal sculpture on Shelter Island, San Diego Bay. I collect seashells, and if I could I’d pocket this one! OK never mind, it’s kind of ginormous.

    Giant Pacific Portal seashell-like sculpture.

Oh, and for you history buffs, Hubbell did a life-size clay sculpture of Father Junipero Serra in front of Mission San Diego de Alcala – California’s first mission – in Mission Valley. Talk about prolific!

I’m checking out the Hubbell House & Studios open house on my way back from a weekend staycation in Borrego Springs – can’t wait! I’ll be sure to take lots of photos and share them with you later this month.

Robert Arends

5 to Try: San Diego’s Home Sweet (Unusual) Homes

‘Tis the season to trim the tree, deck the halls and decorate the house in holiday lights… The Griswolds (National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation”) would have had an interesting time, though, trying to sparkle up these top five curious and remarkable San Diego abodes in strands of lights.

Coincidentally, three of these made Rand McNally’s “Top 10 Quirky & Offbeat Houses” in the U.S. – two of which are located in San Diego’s scenic, and eclectic, East County. No (gingerbread) cookie cutter houses here:

  1. Wonderland… The Hubbell House and Studios, also known as Ilan-Lael (“The Place”), near Julian, celebrates the vision, creative spirit and work of architect/artist James Hubbell, “San Diego’s Gaudi.” This designer’s dreamland seems to jump out of a Dr. Seuss book with its eight fantastical structures! Docent tours are available in the spring and fall by appointment only.

    The Boat Houses of Encinitas.

  2. Ahoy! The famous Boat Houses – the S.S. Encinitas and S.S Moon Light – are moored on Third St. (between F and G) in Encinitas. Built in the 1920s by Miles Kellogg (an ultimate recycler in his day) the boat houses can be seen from Highway 101 and are a rad (yep, I said it) symbol of the local beach and surf culture. They’re private residences (no public tours), but easily photographed from the road.
  3. You spin me round. The Rotating House high atop Mt. Helix in La Mesa is a futuristic saucer-shaped wonder that actually rotates 360-degrees (!), affording its owners Al and Janet Johnstone sweeping vistas from the mountains to the sea.

    Rotating House in La Mesa.

  4. Livin’ large? Not quite… According to urban legend, the small-scale Munchkin Houses in La Jolla – by famed architect Cliff May – were built for a few munchkin actors from the “Wizard of Oz.” That may or may not be true, but you’ll certainly do a double-take when you spot these diminutive domiciles, located on the 7470 block of Hillside Drive on Mount Soledad in La Jolla.
  5. It’s a small world… The House of Pacific Relations International Cottages in Balboa Park are a trip – around the globe! Representing 32 countries, this “village” of historic cottages from the 1935 Exposition (plus 4 newer ones) is a fascinating window into each country’s culture, history and traditions. They’re open every Sunday afternoon between noon and 5 p.m. OK, I’ll admit it… I go for the food!