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04/25/2007 07:00:00

Romy Wyllie, Expert on Caltech's Architectural Heritage, Writes Book on Bertram Goodhue

PASADENA, Calif.—Visitors to the California Institute of Technology often compliment the architecture, the landscaping, and the general layout of the Pasadena campus. Much of the credit must go to the architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, who was responsible for the original master plan as well as several early campus buildings.

Goodhue, who died in 1924 and has hitherto been comparatively neglected by architectural scholars, is now the subject of a book by Pasadena writer Romy Wyllie, an interior designer and expert on the Caltech campus. The book, Bertram Goodhue: His Life and Residential Architecture, is being published by W.W. Norton & Company of New York.

The Caltech Bookstore will host a book signing on Wednesday, May 9, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

In addition to many churches throughout the country, including the Cadet Chapel at West Point Military Academy, Goodhue's best-known works are the Nebraska State Capitol, the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., and the Los Angeles Public Library. Wyllie has added to this record the story of his lesser-known residential commissions—two distinctive California residences, the Coppell Mansion in Pasadena, and El Fureidis in Montecito, which were featured recently in the Los Angeles Times.

Goodhue's contributions to the Caltech campus began in 1915, when the Institute was still known as Throop College. George Ellery Hale, a member of the board of trustees, was familiar with Goodhue's work at the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego, and urged the trustees to establish a relationship with the architect.

The campus had moved from its downtown Pasadena location to the present site a mile or so to the east in 1910. Goodhue formulated a master plan that expanded the arrangement already in place at the new campus, adding a Spanish theme based on Renaissance designs of central and southern Spain, along with the adobe forms of the American Southwest.

Goodhue's vision for the campus called for a memorial building with a blue-tiled dome and adjacent reflecting pool reminiscent of the Taj Mahal in India. Although the building and pool were never built, the surrounding academic buildings and background elements are, to this day, the administrative center.

Goodhue's firm continued working on the Caltech master plan until 1939, years after his death.

According to the foreword by Robert C. Ripley, capitol administrator of the Nebraska State Capitol, "Goodhue was one of the most gifted and complex architects in America during the early years of the twentieth century." His work is characterized by "his insistent refusal to conform to any rigid architectural doctrine," which continues to be an inspiration to modern architects eight decades after his death, Ripley adds.

"This volume makes a significant contribution to a broader understanding of the impressive body of work created by Bertram Goodhue," Ripley concludes.

Wyllie is the author of Caltech's Architectural Heritage: From Spanish Tile to Modern Stone, which was published in 2000 and serves as a standard reference work for those interested in the history of the Institute. She is also cofounder and chairman of the Caltech Architectural Tour Service, which she helped establish in 1985, and she is an honorary alumna.

A certified interior designer and professional member of the International Interior Design Association, she has taught architectural history and interior design at the Harrington Institute of Interior Design in Chicago. She holds a master of arts degree from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Review copies of the book are available by contacting Kevin Olsen at, (212) 790-4323.

Written by Robert Tindol