Remembering Architect John Kelsey, 1925-2012

The architecture firm of Ladd & Kelsey designed the main building on the CalArts campus.

CalArts mourns the loss of artist and architect John Kelsey, who, with his partner Thornton Ladd, left an indelible mark on the Southern California cityscape.

The Pasadena-based Ladd & Kelsey architecture firm was responsible for the design of the Pasadena Museum of Art (which is now the Norton Simon Museum), a Busch Gardens theme park in Van Nuys, buildings on the campuses of the University of Southern California, Occidental and Claremont colleges as well as the main building on the CalArts campus.

From a remembrance in the Los Angeles Times:

For CalArts, Ladd & Kelsey designed what the partners called a “mega-building,” a unified complex with 150 spaces that encompassed eight theaters, galleries and other technical facilities. The Times called the plans for the behemoth “virtually unprecedented,” and Kelsey touted the flexibility of the design.

“There isn’t a traditional classroom in the building,” Kelsey had said of the planned classrooms, which could easily be reconfigured “to fit the needs of the instructor.”

Their inspiration for CalArts — originally developed by Walt Disney — had come from ancient Athens, Rome and Renaissance Europe, according to the architects.

Kelsey, born in Los Angeles, attended USC’s school of architecture before forming Ladd & Kelsey in 1958. He died on Aug. 4 in Santa Barbara.

To learn more about Kelsey’s art and architecture, please visit John Kelsey Architect.

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  1. Jim Olson // //

    I worked part time for Ladd and Kelsey when I was attending Pasadena College studying Architecture. I later attended Cal Arts for two years before they discontinued the School of Design as too commercial. It was like a breath of fresh air to study with the world leaders in design in an open environment.