March 29, 2023

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Only a handful of architect Eugene Ray’s models have been crafted since he started his career in the 1950s. Yet his impression is substantial. As founder and head of San Diego Condition University’s environmental layout method from 1969 to 1996, he mentored pupils who developed dozens of San Diego buildings.

“He was an very inspirational particular person for me as a youthful student simply because he thought and taught in different ways,” explained San Diego architect Frank Wolden.

RNT Architecture principal Kotaro Nakamura stated, “When I was exposed to Eugene’s imagining, it opened my eyes that the designed natural environment is a lot much more than flooring, walls and roofs.”

Chikako Terada, Nakamura’s spouse at RNT, explained she discovered from Ray the “vibrational” energy of areas to provoke “Wow!” sensations that terms just can’t capture.

Architect Eugene Ray’s previous La Jolla dwelling on Nautilus Street, recognized as the Silver Ship, nonetheless exists, but its roof style and design has been altered by much more recent citizens. Ray took this image when he lived there.

(Eugene Ray)

While Ray’s college students have realized numerous properties, the key illustration of his individual architecture is the hillside La Jolla house on Nautilus Street recognized as the Silver Ship, which he designed and created of concrete and wooden with his pupils in the late 1970s.

Silver Ship is a “stretched dome” supported by a cross-hatch vault of wood beams that resembles the diamond sample on a rattlesnake. Ray took the idea from “lamella roofs” developed by early-20th-century German engineer Friedrich Zollinger. The concept also was applied at the Houston Astrodome and the Superdome in New Orleans.

A collage of Eugene Ray's design and construction of his Silver Ship home in La Jolla.

Eugene Ray set alongside one another this collage on the structure and building of his Silver Ship dwelling in La Jolla in the late 1970s.

(Eugene Ray)

Ray bought Silver Ship a long time back next the demise of his to start with wife, Marian. A subsequent transform extra a metal roof and lined up hand-bent redwood siding with corrugated metallic. Definitely it’s now far more weatherproof, but to Ray, it is outside of recognition.

Architect Eugene Ray stands in his home at the Chateau La Jolla retirement community.

Architect Eugene Ray stands in his house at the Chateau La Jolla retirement local community.

(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

These days he life with his second spouse, Marianne, at Chateau La Jolla, a seaside retirement community throughout the road from redwood cottages in which he lived as a young architect and blocks from the Crimson Roost and Crimson Relaxation cottages he helped maintain.

At Ray’s spacious, sunny apartment at Chateau La Jolla are countless numbers of drawings and collages he has assembled over the decades. They incorporate his elaborate styles with pictures from architectural, individual and historical sources, with themes highlighted in distinctive rub-on lettering that wraps curved corners. He states science-fiction creator Ray Bradbury when proposed a movie incorporating the graphics.

Even closets and bathrooms provide as screen areas. Artifacts address almost each and every available floor. On a dwelling area desk are worldwide structure journals these kinds of as Domus and A+U that featured his function. In his business are hundreds of publications, a portion of the 10,000 he once owned.

Architect Eugene Ray shows his Radiant Gateway design, once proposed as a fiber-optic overpass.

Architect Eugene Ray exhibits his Radiant Gateway structure, as soon as proposed as a fiber-optic overpass about Interstate 5 getting into San Diego.

(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

His wide archive at SDSU and at household is managed by his previous university student and longtime buddy David Fobes, a San Diego artist and household furniture designer who taught at SDSU and operates carefully with Ray. Thanks to Fobes, a lot of videos of Ray’s lectures from the past 50 yrs can be found on line. Fobes also co-curated a 2019 “Radiant Architecture” exhibit in San Diego devoted to Ray, with models and wall-dimensions panels showcasing projects, largely unbuilt, from Tanzania and Tehran to California, Hong Kong and Bohol Island in the Philippines.

When Ray explains “radiant architecture,” he speaks of biomorphic constructions, biotronic vitality and synergetic environments. Sources of inspiration run from Nikola Tesla (“If you want to obtain the secrets of the universe, imagine in conditions of vitality, frequency and vibration”) to Bugatti sports activities cars, and from nature to extraterrestrial life. Architects R. Buckminster Fuller, Frank Lloyd Wright, Bruce Goff and Goff’s College of Oklahoma colleague Herb Greene — whose buildings had been showcased in the 1940s Existence magazines that Ray’s father introduced household — also are in the mix.

Ray states he admires the radical designs of his peers at Archigram in London as perfectly as the operate of architect Paulo Soleri, who founded the Arcosanti experimental local community in Arizona. Ray is fascinated with Imhotep, a pyramid designer in historical Egypt, and with Indigenous American tipi dwellings — sturdy conical cloth constructions not not like the ones created by Ray and his pupils. Yrs back, Ray took a course to the Yucatan to examine Mayan architecture.

In accordance to a paper Ray organized for a French authorities symposium on vitality in 1985, radiant architecture “explores associations in between architecture and energy” and posits that “architecture can be organized to enlarge and immediate organic power methods for human nicely-currently being.”

Solar energy is just portion of the concept. Cones, domes and spheres transmit “bioenergy” to people within them, Ray suggests.

This kind of kinds are beyond the architectural mainstream, which is a person rationale most of his styles ended up never crafted. Cubes, squares and rectangles are much more familiar and marketable.

Resources and solutions he favors also tumble outdoors the mainstream. Yrs ago he created a La Mesa dwelling that includes domes of ferrocement — a mortar that is spread about steel armatures to make lightweight, sturdy constructions. In spite of a phone-book-dimension established of engineering specs calculated on UC San Diego’s supercomputer, the metropolis of La Mesa would not approve the constructing simply because it did not fit present codes.

1 of Ray’s collages depicts an elongated construction that resembles the ribbed body of a insect, anchored by volumes resembling plant or animal varieties. “If the Earth was going to grow buildings, they would not be packing containers,” he stated.

UFO encounter

It is perfectly-documented that Ray characteristics his relentless innovative spark to a boyhood encounter with a unusual item.

“At 15, I saw a UFO around our household in Baton Rouge — a cylindrical craft, cigar-shaped,” he reported. “A bunch of us ended up traveling huge kites manufactured by my dad. … We were lying there looking at our kites, and all of a sudden this craft flew gradually overhead from west to east. And to this day I have the feeling they had been watching us. Undoubtedly my operate has cosmic consciousness simply because of that.”

“Alchemy” is one of Ray’s preferred phrases. It dates from historic situations and elixirs well prepared by shamans and has progressed more than centuries to encompass science, engineering, metaphysics, theology and philosophy.

An architectural drawing by Eugene Ray shows his monocoque shell structures.

An architectural drawing by Eugene Ray displays his monocoque shell structures.

(Eugene Ray)

Ray researched architecture and taught at Louisiana State College and Tulane, where by he earned a master’s degree. The region had a powerful impression on him thanks to its various tradition and his household ties. He recollects the early put up-and-beam houses he intended there, along with a tiny jazz location in New Orleans’ French Quarter. There also was a plantation owned by distant family members that featured a domed composition.

In the late 1960s, San Diego architect Lloyd Ruocco and his wife, Ilse, an artist and a textile designer who taught at SDSU, recruited Ray to start an architecture method in the art department. Ray branded it “environmental design” to mirror a wide mission incorporating courses in art, sculpture, photography, ecology and engineering.

He invited radical architects to lecture, this sort of as Goff, L.A. modernist John Lautner, Archigram representatives and Soleri. Ray says some lectures were boycotted by some San Diego architects, but he was finally invited by Archigram’s Peter Cook dinner to lecture two times at the Architectural Affiliation University of Architecture in London.

Computer system-aided layout was portion of Ray’s curriculum extensive before CAD software program became common. He and his college students experimented with large-strength ceramic and glass with the intent to make lightweight, reasonably priced structures. He recalls how his students bested learners from UCLA, USC, UC Berkeley and Cal Poly in a competitiveness. Their “biomorphic tensile structure” withstood an right away windstorm, whilst a concrete block composition by a further group collapsed, he says.

Even though it helped launch critical San Diego professions, Ray’s SDSU application was eradicated shortly just after his retirement in 1996. He experienced occur down with malaria during a check out to Brazil, and when he returned, he couldn’t go on instructing all seven of the department’s environmental layout classes. Without the need of Ray, assist for the application evaporated.

Hunting ahead

Due to the fact his retirement, Ray has devoted much of his time to genealogy. He reported he traces his lineage to the medieval Knights Templar, whose fortresses, he states, ended up fashionable in their structure.

Ray and Marianne produced a pilgrimage to the Chateau du Clos Lucé in France, wherever Leonardo da Vinci, an additional of Ray’s heroes, used his ultimate many years as court docket artist and architect to King Francis I, and in which styles of da Vinci’s innovations are on display.

As he appears back again on a existence devoted to changing skeptics, Ray mentioned he’s optimistic about his legacy.

“My legacy is as sturdy now as it’s ever been,” he said. “I have a massive intercontinental track record. The substance which is been posted all-around the earth, lectures and exhibitions in 12 nations around the world, has given me a enormous viewers. When I die, I feel my legacy is heading to grow noticeably.” ◆