The Nishimoto House

Kenneth Nishimoto • 1957 • Pasadena, CA

Sigma fp L • Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 II
243 words • 4 images
Looking up the street

While walking around on Poppy Peak Drive in Pasadena (hoping to see a Harwell Harris, a Neutra, and a Buff & Hensman on the same twisting street), I happened upon this low-slung home and was immediately intrigued by the shallow-pitched double gable roofline and the strong rhythms on this slim southwestern elevation.

I had never heard of the architect Kenneth Nishimoto before seeing this house, but it was easily my favorite on the walk. Turns out he was a 1934 USC grad, though only 8 years later he was interned at a concentration camp in the Arizona desert, where Nishimoto’s daughter — the current owner of the house — was born.

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Looking down a path on the south side of the house

Never ceases to amaze me how little credit is given to East Asian building traditions in histories of modernism, particularly histories of the midcentury USC style in Pasadena. Whitney R. Smith (of Smith & Williams) even went out of his way to clarify that any similarity between California Modernism & traditional Japanese architecture was “99% coincidence.” Anthony Denzer’s great essay in “Outside In: the Architecture of Smith & Williams” makes clear what a ridiculous claim that was.

Here though the influence is obvious, particularly in that projecting ridge beam, which reminds of the beam at the top of the Ise Shrine, even down to the ornamental rhythm of the little vents Nishimoto added. Or am I imagining the similarity there?

Here’s a brief biography of Nishimoto from the Pacific Coast Architecture Database.

Looking down the street
The southwestern elevation

Originally posted: 2024-06-01