For more than 50 years, San Diego artist James Hubble and his wife Anne have been building their mountain retreat, creating art, and sharing their creativity with the community; Ilan-Lael atop “Hubble Hill” in the mountains east of San Diego is the beautifully crafted result. Now, every Father’s Day (this year it’s June 19), the duo opens their historically-designated and architecturally home to the general public.
Comprised of buildings “that trees aren’t embarrassed to stand next to,” Ilan-Lael is a study in different methods of design and construction, always improving on and modifying what came before it. Buildings fit seamlessly into the landscape, using existing trees and rocks as objects to build around – not in place of. No bulldozers were used and footings were hand-dug; trees, wildflowers, and brush were kept and appreciated for their natural beauty. “The place” consists of eight structures (all designed and built by James Hubbell) that sit on 40 sprawling acres near Santa Ysabel. It serves as the couple’s current home, Hubbell’s art studio, and the center of the Ilan-Lael Foundation itself; an art education and nature center.
Now called James’ Studio, the first building was built in 1958, when it originally served as the family’s home. It was a simple square space made simply from stone, adobe bricks, and cedar from a sawmill in nearby Julian, and still stands as one of the most architecturally interesting structures on the site.
In 1962, a second structure was built next to the first, which became a living, dining, and kitchen area. Mexican and Italian mosaic tile was added over kitchen countertops, windows, and door-sills. The cedar floor was clamped with hand-forged nails found in an antique shop in New Jersey, and large windows on the west side of the living room were supported by a reinforced steel and concrete column covered by adobe. Furniture, light fixtures, and other accessories were all hand-made, and nothing was painted. Hand-forged hardware adorns most of the doors and sculptural or “found” wood objects became the doorknobs, creating an almost fairytale-like feel to the space.
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Hubbell then built his four boys a section on the land, and it was well worth the wait – this one took eight years to complete! Pools of glass and mosaic tile are the centerpieces, and the windows and doors stream light through stained glass. Clay additions make this particular building one of the most unique on the property.
A sculpture gallery, another studio, a drafting studio, a chapel, and a fully sustainable garden were all later built on the hill; the newest building is the Ilan-Lael Center, which Hubbell hopes will eventually be the heart of the little community on the hill and a place for people to come together.
The public can now book tours for this coming Father’s Day on Sunday, June 19th. The morning tour is from 10am-1pm and the afternoon tour is from 1pm-4pm. Visit the website for more details and to book a tour for a completely unique Father’s Day experience.
[images courtesy of ilanlaelfoundation.org]
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