It seemed for a time that A. Quincy Jones’ beloved “barn,” which the architect used as his home and studio, might be put out to pasture when the house went on the market in 2008. But The Architect’s Newspaper has learned that the building has been saved through a recent purchase by the Metabolic Studio, an arts program affiliated with the Annenberg Foundation. The studio is working on a minor renovation with Frederick Fisher that will do much to maintain Jones’ unique interiors. Later this year, Chora, an arts incubator, will move in, with offices and an artist-in-residence program occupying the space.
Located in LA’s Century City, the structure is Jones’ redesign of an old photographer’s studio that was modeled on a New England barn. Jones completed his transformation of the property in 1965. The large, open space has 50-foot-high ceilings, large sliding doors, a pitched-roof, redwood paneling, Jones’ typically elegant built-in cabinetry, and carefully-oriented windows that allow rich light to flow in from several angles.
The studio, which closed on the property in November, would not disclose the price it paid for the house. The previous owner was Jones’ widow, Elaine Sewell Jones, who stayed until the end of 2009, 30 years after the death of her husband. "Not one single person who knew Quincy thought he’d ever buy a New England barn, but he made it his own," Sewell Jones told the LA Times in 2002.
The renovations will not change the barn structurally or aesthetically, but will consist of “cleanup and stabilization,” said Fisher, who also designed the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica. Fisher stressed that he will make every effort to respect the original, much as he did with Jones’ former offices out of which his firm now works. “We’re using a very light touch,” Fisher said. Work includes updated lighting fixtures, window upgrades for sound and thermal insulation, and new ventilation systems. “The place really felt like you had stepped back in time," Fisher said, and he said he intends to keep it that way.
Chora is a project of the Metabolic Studio, which is run by Annenberg Foundation director Lauren Bon and gained notoriety for its “Not a Cornfield” project. Chora’s offices will take over the barn’s small studio later this year, and its first artist-in-residence should be moved in by the fall. Chora also plans to use the space for lectures, exhibitions, and events, In addition to the new artist-in-residence program, Chora provides grants and an annual prize to artists.
Bridget Kelly, a program associate at the Annenberg Foundation, said the barn was chosen in large part to lend inspiration to visiting artists. “You walk in and you just are in awe of every detail,” she said. Another reason for the choice: Jones has a long history with the Annenberg family. He designed Sunnylands, the Annenbergs’ Palm Springs estate—Metabolic Studio’s Bon, who is Walter Annenberg’s granddaughter, grew up visiting the compound—as well as the Annenberg School of Communications at USC.
The decision to restore the barn also fits nicely with the Annenberg Foundation’s practices, as it has made historic preservation a top priority. In addition to renovating the barn and transforming the Marion Davies pool and guesthouse into the Annenberg Community Beach House, the foundation is converting the landmark Beverly Hills Post Office into the Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts.