John Arthur Blanton
January 1, 1928 – December 15, 2018
Former Manhattan Beach, California, architect John Arthur Blanton died on December 15, 2018, in Merced. California.
John had a flourishing practice in Manhattan Beach for nearly 50 years designing homes and offices there and in neighboring beach towns as well as in Palos Verdes, Long Beach, Venice, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Fresno.
John taught classes at local universities on architectural theories and published articles on these topics in the local AIA Journal and in L.A. Architect, the Los Angeles Times, and Progressive Architecture. “I spent a lot of time educating the public to the high level of architectural culture in Southern California,” he told the noted Italian magazine “L’architettura” in 1988, when he and his work were the magazine’s cover article. For several years he taught an extension class at UCLA on the architecture of Southern California, leading his students on Saturday tours of some of Los Angeles' most iconic architectural treasures. John was profiled in American Architects (a 1989 survey of award-winning architects and their works), “Who’s Who in California” and “Who’s Who in America”. His architectural papers have been left to UCLA and archived in Special Collections.
John was a veteran who served 2 years in the U.S. Army. In Manhattan Beach, he was a member of the planning commission from 1997 until 2002 and was active in Rotary.
From 1950 until 1964 John worked for world-acclaimed Modernist architect Richard Neutra in his Silverlake Boulevard office in Los Angeles, during the so-called “Golden Era” of Neutra’s residential work when Neutra entrusted him with many key projects. Architectural historian Dr. Barbara Lamprecht, a close friend, described John as "one of Neutra's most talented and beloved lead project architects, in later years continuing to assist in the appropriate restoration of many of Neutra's projects until his death. With such a long tenure with the Neutra office, a gentle manner, and always generous with knowledge, he was a great resource for many craftsmen and architects whose mantra was ‘we’d better call John’.”
A few year ago John recalled his life in an interview with Richard Neutra's youngest son, Dr. Raymond Neutra:
“I arrived in 1950, about half a year after graduating from the architecture school at Rice University in Texas. My dean had written on my behalf to [renowned architects] Bruce Goff, Alden B. Dow, Antonin Raymond, and Neutra. I got refusals from the others, but Neutra sent a letter saying there was no position "at this time." I was too naive to recognize this as a refusal and wrote back that I would wait. I got a job with a local architect for a while and then wrote again. This time I was accepted. (Neutra) was a very generous teacher, he gave everyone the chance to go out on a limb on their own and see if you could get back in … very early on he gave me the Eagle Rock Clubhouse. I continued in the Neutra office until 1964 when I notified Neutra that I wished to start my own office. He allowed me a transition period in which I worked part-time in the Neutra office on the design and preparation of construction documents for the Taylor House, among others, and the rest of the time on my own projects in my home office. [During my years with Neutra] I worked on all the preliminary designs including some of the Neutra and Alexander projects. [A firm with Robert E. Alexander devoted to large commercial and public commissions.] I also provided some comments on the manuscript of his book ‘Survival Through Design’.” Neutra included a specific acknowledgement to John in the first edition of that book as well as in his autobiography “Life and Shape”.
John was born January 1, 1928, in Houston Texas to Caroline and Arthur Blanton. He graduated from Lamar High School in 1944 and from Rice University (then Rice Institute) in Houston in 1949 with a B.A. and B.S. in architecture. In 1954 he married Marietta Louise Newton of Kalamazoo, Michigan who was an assistant in the Neutra office and later a college professor.
John always found time to balance the demands of his career with time for his children who he raised after Marietta died in Manhattan Beach in 1976. He was always there for them and was adored by them, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren.
Marietta and John had three daughters: Jill Milne (Mark) of Pendleton, Oregon, Lynette Rowe, deceased (Robert Rowe remarried to Kathy), and Elena Blanton who lovingly cared for John in Merced in his final years. He leaves 9 grandchildren: Jeff Lewis (Claire), Kristy Lewis, Robert Rowe (Allison), David John Rowe (Keri), Melissa Buckwalter (Anthony), Katherine Barlow (Nathan), Sara Rowe, Jennifer Rowe, Anna Rowe, and 8 great-grandchildren in Oregon, Washington, California and Utah. He is also survived by his sister, Mary Allen of Boerne, Texas, his brother, Taylor Blanton (Martha) of Los Fresnos, Texas, and his niece, Jennie Witty (Randall) of Boerne.
Family and friends are invited to a Celebration of John's Life and Work on Saturday, February 9th, 2019 at Vista Ranch and Cellars (7326 East Highway 140, Merced, California) from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. This Celebration will be an open house reception, you may come and go at any time or you are welcome to stay the whole time.
Celebration of Life Service
Saturday, February 9, 2019
John Arthur Blanton
December 21, 2020
Although arriving rather late to the memorial I’d like to share a little story of my encounter with John.
In the early 90’s I think it was, as a brash young LA designer, I was hired to work on a remodel for the Axness family’s contemporary home on Crater Oak Drive in Calabasas California. So named for the several hundred years old oak tree in the front drive. John, Marcy, young Ian and Eve Axness were to make this their full time home away from the noise of their Hollywood careers.
John Blanton was their architect and I was hired in for the interiors. John and I worked together during many collaborative meetings with the clients and builder. I was a know- it-all kid and John, a patient and tolerant maestro. His easy manner, calming voice and humor was ambrosia to me. Occasionally, we would argue when I pushed a point too hard. But John had a way to diffuse and realign without my fully being aware of it. At one point, I even designed and proposed an alternate floor plan which was fortunately dismissed by the clients.
The end result was a remarkable blending of the client’s program requirements, John’s architecture and my interiors.
Years later, I called John in his office and reminisced with him about our project together. I joked that if I had known who he was I’d have treated him with more respect, he responded; “ Oh I doubt that very much.”
In retrospect I count myself as fortunate to have had an encounter with this talented, generous and kind man. I am a better designer now for it.
January 28, 2019
John played a big part in my Grandparents life and story. He will be missed.
My condolences to his family.
January 24, 2019
My husband and I have known John for many years through his architectural work.
We felt very lucky when he agreed to design a new home for us. He was so patient, thorough and careful in his designs. Everything was drawn by hand; no models or computers for him. He told us he wanted lists of the things we wanted in our new home, but also lists of things we didn’t want. We obliged him and soon we had the beginning sketches in hand.
He was quiet, meticulous and so talented. He was able to hear what we meant even when we hadn’t directly spoken about it. Our home is the result of this great collaboration between us, our builder and himself. He recommended that Andy Madans build our home and after some thought, we agreed. It was the third time the two of them had worked as a team and they were very good together.
We will always be grateful for his tireless work on our behalf. We feel as though we’re living in a work of art. Our lives have been enriched many times over. His renderings of the four aspects of our home now hang in our front entry as a testament to his amazing eye. They also mark our home as a place where art is of central importance.
We are saddened that he is gone and wish his family comfort at this time of grief. He touched many lives with his beautiful plans. May he rest in peace.
Peggy & Ben Carter
Manhattan Beach CA
January 20, 2019
I have been an architectural historian for over 30 years after transitioning from another profession in the arts. A turning point for me was when I enrolled in John Blanton's UCLA Extension class. I remember it quite well as he took us on field trips as well as class work. This was how I was physically introduced to the architecture of Neutra, Schindler, and Case Study buildings. After John's class, I bought the Gebhard and Winter guide book and set out every weekend for what I called "architecture patrol." Blanton's Extension class was so memorable, I have not forgotten some of the points he taught me.
January 11, 2019
John has been my friend for 75 years.We were in Lamar High School a few years earlier, but did not know each other well until the Department of Architecture at Rice toward the end of WW2 and a bit after. It was a very small school in those years –there were about 6 in the freshman class.So we were like a family working and playing together for long hours on design and presentation projects. Most of us worked 24-48 hours to meet the due date of our projects, but not John. I recall that he never missed a deadline, and usually had the best conceived presentation. When he wrote to Richard Neutra we were amazed and proud that he was actually accepted. His career was interrupted (as was mine) by the Korean War draft. But we were lucky enough to serve together in the 301st Signal Photo Company in Augusta, Georgia –lucky to be together, not to be in Augusta. We had many fun weekend leaves touring the south, and later the northeast when we were in photo school. John was my confidant in those days when I was courting Annette, and later helped me search for a suitable honeymoon location. When we resumed our careers, John became one of Neutra's 5 key associates, doing design development on many of his projects, and sometimes acting as reviewer for some of his writings, which later led to a literary side of his own career. Once Neutra was visiting a site with John and had to go to the bathroom. So John took him to our house which was nearby, and he gave us a design critique. I remember that we spent weekends with John, Marietta when Jill and our Michael were infants, and I believe we shared babysitting on occasion. John was the most dedicated architect I have ever known. In my view, architecture was a religion for him. He was without artifice and steadfast in his refusal to compromise his principles. It was not a matter of ego—he always put his clients wishes first. We once talked about working for developers. I said “John, sell out" He just looked at me and laughed
January 9, 2019
I’d recently bought the Poster Apartments and was starting to research the building in preparation for restoring it. The researcher I hired excitedly called me to say there was a water feature on the side of the building and Richard Neutra was standing in it. He also told me that he found that John Blanton had been the project architect.
I found John’s number in the white pages and called him without any introduction. “Yes, I was the project architect.” He was very reassuring. “No, there was no water feature on the south side of the building, and if there had been, Richard wouldn’t be standing in it.” John was very patient with me. And very gracious. He volunteered to come up to the Valley to walk me through the building (I believe he was living in Manhattan Beach). I never asked if he would do this – I think he just sensed that I really could use his help and the project would benefit from it. The first thing I did was show him the picture of the “water feature.” John told me the story behind the photo (which involved a tired Richard Neutra, a hot day and Julius Shulman capturing an optical illusion). John walked the site and explained to me that it had been a difficult one which required filling in part of a pool. This was not immediately apparent but explained why the clients got the lot for a bargain price and proceeded with the project in the first place.
There was something so generous in his manner that John just calmed me down. After spending the afternoon with him, I felt “I can do this.” And I did. When John came back and toured the building after I’d finished, he told me I’d done a good job. It was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.