X-100 History

Architects Jones & Emmons

A. Quincy Jones (left) and Frederick Emmons (right) flank builder Joe Eichler, circa 1953.

A. Quincy Jones, the architect behind the X-100, was the design leader and partner in the architectural firm of Jones & Emmons, and he committed his early career to improving the affordable single-family house. Jones’s successes in this field include work for several developers apart from Eichler Homes, and later in his career he achieved international recognition for his commercial buildings and college campus designs throughout California and beyond.

X-100 construction site circa 1956: A. Quincy Jones (kneeling) and Frederick Emmons (left).

In 1948, Quincy Jones experimented with prototypical house designs when he designed the 1,000-square-foot single-family post-and-beam house in San Diego for the merchant builder, A.C. Hvistendahl. In 1950, that house earned Jones an American Institute of Architects First Honor Award. The publication of the award in the December issue of the magazine Architectural Forum was the same issue that recognized Joe Eichler with ‘Subdivision of the Year’ honors. As a result of that meeting in the press, Eichler almost immediately hired Jones & Emmons to design one of his subdivisions. Their collaboration would last more than 25 years, during which time Eichler built some 5,000 houses based on Jones & Emmons designs.

Inside the Jones-Eichler steel-house collaboration for the 1954 'Research Village’ project.

Jones was always fascinated by the potential of modern technologies, particularly in the use of steel in residential construction. In 1953, he  was one of six architects selected by the U.S. Gypsum Company, makers of plasterboard, to design model homes for an exhibition called ‘Research Village’ in Barrington, Illinois, that involved “the adaptation of industrial materials and techniques to home design.” Eichler advised on the project as a builder-consultant.

Jones's X-100 predecessor, the Los Angeles steel house he designed for his family in 1954.

In 1954, Jones built a steel-framed house for himself and his family in an effort to prove that steel construction was not only economical, but that when detailed correctly, steel made for a remarkably speedy erection process while creating a “warm, livable home.” Erecting the frame took only a week, and the entire house was constructed in three months, about half the time of a conventional custom-designed house. Just two years later, in 1956, Jones adapted his steel house design for the X-100 house, Eichler’s showcase for modern building technology in the San Mateo Highlands.

 

Among the Eichler house models, many are easily identifiable as Jones designs, especially those with the steeply pitched gable roof. Roofs were, for Jones, particularly expressive building elements. His travel sketches often show a particular attention to roofs, their shading carefully rendered, and their profiles boldly outlined.

Jones & Emmons' design achievement upon completion: inside the X-100 kitchen, 1956.

Although Jones was a rigorous exponent of modern building technology and experimented with structural innovations in house design, his ethic was fundamentally a humanist one. His widow, Elaine Jones, recalled his characteristically sensitive approach to design: “Quincy’s architecture never sought attention through visual drama. His architecture related instead totally to the human being—to the people who lived in and around his architecture.” Jones’s success was due certainly to a great strength of will, but his greatest fortune may have been in finding developers who were willing to share his vision and challenge the conventions of common residential design and construction.

 

Architectural historian Esther McCoy summarized Jones’s place in history in 1980 when she wrote, “Jones was part of the reform movement seeking to change obsolete building codes and to relax restrictions, which kept floor planning from keeping pace with the changes in lifestyles. He offered more than talent; he eased the path from the old to the new for all architects who followed.”

A working model of the X-100 designed by the Jones & Emmons office circa 1956.