Last Case Study architect, Beverley Thorne, passes away
By Patrick Sisson
11 December 2017
Image: Beverley David Thorne, third from left, is pictured with his wife, far right, and jazz musician Dave Brubeck and his wife at a home Thorne built for them in Connecticut. Courtesy Steve Thorne.
University of California, Berkeley alumnus Beverley David Thorne (B.A. Arch ‘50) , an architect known for his striking modernist homes, passed away in December in Sonoma, California. He was 93.
Thorne was the last living contributor to the Case Study Houses program, a series of modernist designs commissioned by Art & Architecture magazine. The program, which asked progressive architects to design inexpensive steel-and-glass homes, aimed to show Modernist architecture could be both affordable and attainable, and helped popularize the style in the postwar era.
Thorne’s contribution, the Harrison House, built on a hillside in San Rafael, California, in 1963, was No. 26 in the program.
Thorne may be most famous for the homes he designed for jazz musician Dave Brubeck and his wife Iola in Oakland and Connecticut. The Bay Area design, a treehouse-like structure nicknamed the “House in the Sky,” was often a backdrop for interviews with the performer and composer.
Thorne grew up in Piedmont. At age nine, he designed his first house near Auburn, California and helped his grandfather build it. After four years as an Air Force pilot, Thorne studied architecture at UC Berkeley, graduating in 1950. Starting in 1953, Thorne spent a brief time working for Bay Area architect Roger Lee, during which time he designed the Brubeck house. After starting his own practice in 1954, he was flooded with attention due his work for the jazz musician, and began limiting his work, even changing his professional name from David to Beverley. He would later design a number of homes in Hawaii in the ‘80s.
Thorne designed over 150 houses, most on steep hillsides and built out of steel, in his decades-long career. Read more about Thorne's legacy here.