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James Hubbell Opens Home, Studios For Public Tours On Father's Day

Mosaic tile work and stained glass at Ilan Lael, the home of James and Anne Hubbell in Santa Ysabel.
Ilan-Lael Foundation
Mosaic tile work and stained glass at Ilan Lael, the home of James and Anne Hubbell in Santa Ysabel.
James Hubbell Opens Home, Studios For Public Tours On Father's Day
GUESTS: James Hubbell is a renown San Diego artist, architectural designer, and the founder of the Ilan-Lael Foundation. Drew Hubbell is an architect with Hubbell and Hubbell and son of James Hubbell.

TOM FUDGE: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition, I'm Tom Fudge. The Hubbell family is one of San Diego's best known artistic families. They have lived out in the backcountry of Santa Ysabel since 1958. That is when James and Anne Hubbell established a homestead that would be their home, and in our studio. This coming Sunday, Father's Day, they will hold an open house to highlight the family's art and architecture, and to raise funds for the Ilan-Lael Foundation, Which is marking its thirtieth anniversary. I'm joined in studio today by James Hubbell, renowned San Diego artist, architectural designer, and founder of the Ilan-Lael Foundation. Drew Hubbell is an architect that Hubbell and Hubbell and son of James Hubbell, thank you for coming in. Let's talk about the open house on Father's Day. Drew, this is become a bit of a tradition, right? An annual event? DREW HUBBELL: Yes, we have held it for over thirty years. TOM FUDGE: All right, and I have been to your compounding Santa Ysabel. It is made up of several structures, with mountains and forest in the background. I'm trying to think of a way to describe your art. It is somewhat abstract, it includes lots of different colors of glass, anyone want to talk about that and maybe describe it a little better? JAMES HUBBELL: Anne calls it Baroque. TOM FUDGE: Broke or Baroque? JAMES HUBBELL: Baroque. TOM FUDGE: There's a lot of broken glass. But that's not what you meant. JAMES HUBBELL: No. I pick up a lot of ideas from nature. So it has a similarity. TOM FUDGE: How should art and architecture relate to environment? JAMES HUBBELL: Well, I think it should. I think men should relate to his environment. We try to build something that feels friendly to the land. TOM FUDGE: Drew, what would you say to that same question, how should art and architecture relate to the environment? DREW HUBBELL: Well, we really feel that designing for specific sites and taking inspiration from the environment of that site, so the buildings really blend in rather than stand out. Frank Lloyd Wright did the same thing and a lot of his designs. TOM FUDGE: And you give us an example of a structure in San Diego that does that aside from the Hubbell compound? DREW HUBBELL: More recently there a couple of parts that were built in structures on Shelter Island, the Pacific Rim Park that they built with the Pacific Rim foundation. And the artistic portal, Pacific Portal that was built for the port of San Diego. TOM FUDGE: James, what is going to be new for people to see at your home in Santa Ysabel, if they they come to your open house? JAMES HUBBELL: We are building a new center for the foundation. We went after the fire, we got the property and the building and the foundation. It works, but it does not really work without the new center. So we're about two thirds through in trying to finish it. TOM FUDGE: Is the center going to be an art museum? JAMES HUBBELL: No, there are a number of uses. One of the things I am most interested in, using it by Camp David where people would come that did not necessarily like each other and have to talk together and be in a place where they feel comfortable. It will probably be used for a school and it will never be like Disneyland. TOM FUDGE: Drew, described this compound in San Ysabel, how many buildings are out there? DREW HUBBELL: There are nine different buildings that my parents and family have told over the sixty years they lived out there. The new centers on a different partial because of zoning regulations. It is really a circular design around a courtyard, and because of the fires we designed it was very fire resistant materials. It will also be in archive building for my father's artwork. TOM FUDGE: I now have told the story many times, what happened during the 2003 fires? Did you lose some buildings? DREW HUBBELL: We lost four of the nine structures, anything that had any wouldn't, and the residential part of it. Luckily half of the structures survived and that my parents felt the need to rebuild. One of the things that is unique about the open house, all of the buildings that were destroyed are back and in better shape than they were before. TOM FUDGE: James, tell us what is the of an Lael foundation, the foundation we have been talking about? JAMES HUBBELL: We started thirty years ago, I think partly the idea was that you could do things as an individual, that people would not take you seriously. If you said you were a foundation they would probably listen. What I'm most interested in is how things connect that don't seem to connect. Getting people to think more inclusively about themselves or about life and other people. TOM FUDGE: What does Ilan-Lael mean? JAMES HUBBELL: It means tree that belongs to God. It is actually a symbol that brings branches and spiritual roots together in one symbol. TOM FUDGE: Explain to me how it is happening that the buildings in this compound are being turned over to this foundation. DREW HUBBELL: It is a large compound of nine different structures. My parents thought it was too much for any of us to inherit and try to take care of it because it is a unique living style. When they pass on it will become an artisan residents and a retreat center. It will be more for public use and the foundation buildings will hopefully continue that foundation work on. TOM FUDGE: I hear you have have tried to incorporate some new concepts, green and fireproof concepts to some of the new buildings at the compound, we tell us about that? DREW HUBBELL: We were able to rebuild existing buildings on the footprint using the structures that were there, a lot of them were concrete and adobe block. We're using recycled Styrofoam and concrete block systems, that is very fire resistant materials that we use on a lot of fire rebuilds. TOM FUDGE: You can visit the Hubbell home in Santa Ysabel coming up this Sunday, Father's Day, June 15. For more information and photographs of the homes that are there, which are very interesting, you can go to KPBS.org. Is it just a coincidence that this takes place on Father's Day? JAMES HUBBELL: Actually, a good friend of ours, we needed somebody to do car shuttling, and the only day he could do it was Father's Day. So we got started, he would bring all of his sons to drive their cars, it happened by accident. TOM FUDGE: Drew, you have spent many years working with your father, right? DREW HUBBELL: Yes. We have been partnered for about twenty years now? TOM FUDGE: What is it like, working with your dad? It is something that not everyone would enjoy doing. DREW HUBBELL: Yes, will he happens to be a really wonderful person to work with. Humble, but always teaching and always learning himself. I've enjoyed it very much, and really want to bring his artwork and design out to the public so it is more visible. TOM FUDGE: James, when you look at the Santa Ysabel side, how is it changed over the fifty-five years you have lived there? How has it changed in your mind? JAMES HUBBELL: I think one of the things when we were first building, I just built because it was fun to build. And when we changed over to the foundation use, we began thinking of it like you do a job, it was not done and you had to finish. There are things that needed doing, putting railings were there were not railings, that kind of stuff. TOM FUDGE: Drew, what was it like growing up there? DREW HUBBELL: It was a magical place. One of the changes that happen with the Cedar fire, a lot of the big oak trees that surrounded the property were burned. It opened up the view a lot more than when we were young. One of the things that people think is really interesting, the buildings are disconnected and there is space between them. That allowed my father to design unique structures, and they did not all need to be the same style. It also made us integrate and be part of nature, so if there was a snowstorm, we had to walk outside to go to our bedroom. It is a unique living style. TOM FUDGE: Do you agree with your mother who called it Baroque? DREW HUBBELL: I don't know about Baroque. TOM FUDGE: It is a serious question, what you say is the style of that architecture? DREW HUBBELL: If you were to categorize it like a university, I think they would call it organic style. Coming from nature, inspiration from nature. TOM FUDGE: James, do you agree with that? JAMES HUBBELL: I use the word romantic. TOM FUDGE: Okay. I guess for this coming weekend you will have to clean the whole place, right? JAMES HUBBELL: Yeah, that is a lot of work. TOM FUDGE: In addition to that, when people come, what can they expect? Will they meet you? Will there be somebody to show them around? DREW HUBBELL: There will be, we have about 100 to volunteers that come that day, we have shuttle buses, and we have been doing this for only 20 to 30 years. We have it down pretty well. With musicians that play different stations, we have professionals, tour guides, docents all around the property at different buildings, our work in some of the literature that my dad has written is all available there. TOM FUDGE: One thing was going to ask you about, I asked you earlier about what it is like to work professionally with your father. Apparently he gave you some interesting advice at one point when he said that there is never really a mistake in art or nature, what do you think he meant by that? DREW HUBBELL: From about the age of for my three brothers and I helped build the buildings up there laying adobe and stone, and we were pouring one column in the boy's house, and it blew out the form. My dad said it is okay, and I was very stressed about it, but he came back later and laid mosaic tile and made it a feature, that was a wonderful lesson. He uses that lesson throughout his life and work. TOM FUDGE: James, no mistakes in art and nature? JAMES HUBBELL: No, actually, I tell kids that if you know where you're going, you're not going anywhere. TOM FUDGE: With that thought, let me thank James and Drew Hubbell.

In what has become a Father's Day tradition for more than 30 years, the artists James and Anne Hubbell will open their home and art studio in Santa Ysabel to the public this Sunday, June 15.

The property consists of nine different structures built by James over the last 55 years. Half of the structures burned in the 2003 Cedar fire, but have been rebuilt.

James continues to design and build structures on the property. He and son Drew, a San Diego architect, are building three new structures that will become the center for Ilan-Lael Foundation.

Drew said their goal is to bring his father's philosophy, integrating art and nature into design, to larger audiences.

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