Light Architecture:
Southern California
Greenhouse Vernacular

start = june98

February 2009
This site hasn't been updated (though I still have many more photos to add, but you can find an album of photos documenting the CSUSM installation of this project posted here.

February 2004
Downlowd the Artist's Statement (PDF)

September 2003
On Exhibition September 17 - November 30
Cal State San Marcos Library

Just adding a few items here as I finish preparing the installation; the site does not yet reflect the complete project.

The installation makes use of materials from Seacoast Greenhouses, our neighbors on Normandy Road. Seacoast went bankrupt almost a year ago, and since then the greenhouses have been empty. A church recently bought the property, and with someone now in the residence the vandalism has subsided. I was lucky to find materials that I could reuse for this exhibit, as it reflects the way many of these buildings are maintained.

The important thing that artists can offer their communities is their ability to notice what others haven’t. It’s as if I’m walking viewers around my neighborhood and pointing things out. The design of the trusses, the beauty of repetition, the simplicity, the ingenious use of materials, the subtle changes in color as the sun shifts, the mechanisms.

Encinitas is officially called “The Flower Capital of The World.” This slogan will have to be changed soon as the greenhouses disappear from the landscape. And their designs will disappear too. If the city can’t save the industry can they save the design? Why can’t the city begin to integrate design elements from the greenhouses into public works. For example, a large park with sports facilities is going in where over 40 acres of greenhouses once stood. Can the city be creative in it’s thinking and request that the architecture include elements of greenhouse design. Imagine a swim complex or gymnasium with the repetitive peaks of the greenhouses reflected in it’s roof line, or a picnic shelter in a greenway with scissor trusses and a peak open to the ocean breeze. Will Encinitas end up with a historical exhibit ? “Our Floriculture Past” “Visit a working greenhouse, see how our famous local industry worked.”

They are the epitome of “form follows function,” minimalist, ingenious.

An artificial nature. The flowers reseed and grow on their own, the torn plastic allowing the rain and sun to do their job.

Books to accompany exhibit:

The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: geographical essays- D. W. Meinig

Rings of Saturn - W.G. Sebald

The Lure Of The Local: Senses Of Place In A Multicentered Society - Lucy R. Lippard

Holy Land: a suburban memoir - D.J. Waldie

Rural Studio: Samuel Mockbee and an architecture of decency - Andrea Oppenheimer Dean

Profiles in Flowers: the story of San Diego County Floriculture - Robert Melvin

Juke Joint: photographs - Birney Imes

Irresistible Decay:ruins reclaimed - Roth, Lyons, Merewether

Greenhouse architecture : a general bibliography - Florita Z. Louis de Malave

A Spatial Analysis of the Floriculture Industry in Northern San Diego County - Charles Coffin

Greenhouse Operation and Management - Paul Nelson

A Case Study on the Global Cut Flower Trade: San Diego, California and Baja California, Mexico - Stephanie Seraydarian


January 2002
I recently read "Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir" by D.J. Waldie. An interesting book about growing up in the early suburbs of Los Angeles. I'm trying to come to terms with the changes in my community. With the rise of electricity, water, and tax rates many greenhouse growers are selling their properties. These of course are being developed into upper-class housing, often called "estates", though they have no estate of their own to speak of, barely a yard around the oversized stucco homes.

November 1999
This project has been put on hold for the time being. Concentrating on some other projects, in particular A Thin Veneer. I hope to come back to this soon - before they're gone.

Notes from April 99 show
This is, so far, a very straightforward documentation of commercial greenhouse architecture in Encinitas. I've grown up literally surrounded by these buildings and have developed a great affection for them as an architectural style. Though there is still a great deal of acreage still devoted to this industry in Encinitas, they are being torn down at an increasing rate as property values increase. Though they are simple industrial buildings, I think we attach a particular nostalgia to their presence because they grow flowers; we long for the "nature" they produce in an increasingly developed region.


Some of the ideas I'm thinking about:

· nostalgia for "nature"

· industry of nature

· cheap, vernacular architecture

· the pastoral view

· loss of the local


December 6, 1998
This project will document the commercial greenhouses in Encinitas from an architectural perspective. Up to now documentary studies of these structures have centered around the work that takes place within them, not the structures themselves. For buildings that are such a ubiquitous presence in Northern San Diego County there has been virtually no discourse on the visual impact they have on the landscape. Though designed as temporary structures, they have endured. When examined collectively one can see a vernacular style emerge, a design that is simple and elegant though there is no aesthetic regard to their design. They change from season to season, the sun glows through their plastic skin, and at night the growing lights act as street lamps.


The presentation of the photographs will reflect the subject. I will show large transprints pressed in plexiglass frames that will be hung inside a working greenhouse. This method of display will allow the abundant ambient light to illuminate the transprints from all sides. They will be suspended from the eaves of the greenhouse in two long rows, matching the rows of growing flowers. I will publish my catalog in a style similar to industry trade catalogs (saddle-stapled, bleached newsprint) that will include photographs and an essay on the project.


August 11, 1998
Planning two parts to this,almost two bodies of work. Straight photos for documentation (ie book), and modified images for myself, something more interesting to work with. I get bored with straight documentary photography.

Spoke the other day with a friend who talked about nwo gone greenhouses in Carlsbad off Tamarack that were glass. They used the louver windows I have on my house (ubiquitous part of older southern california homes - not sold at Home Depot). I hadn't thought about those being used for that purpose. Makes sense.

Reading on company towns, the major difference is that a real company townhad some responsibility to the worker, housing them and such.Here it used to be that may of th workers took building materials from their work to build a shack in the canyons. Benign neglect, just as in the field worker situation.


July 9
Two things I'll need to work on for this project: going against my usual inclination to minimize and instead try to amass a large number of images, and getting over my shyness in order to get on the premises of these places. Chain-link fences are everywhere keeping me away and getting in my sights. I also want to get interior shots (even though my own view of them has always been from the outside).Compared Fuji Super G 800 with their NHGII 800 - NHG the clear winner, sure don't need a warm cast for this project.

July 1
I can't find any books that relate to this topic clearly. No one has written about this directly it seems, at least in terms of architecture. In terms of immigrant labor it has been addressed, but I think there can be larger ideas discussed if you bring in the architecture. I'm going to try some books on the architecture of company towns. It may not seem similar at first, but if you think about it a minute there are a lot of similarities. We'll see. I was amazed to discover that UCSD doesn't have a Department of Architecture, pretty strange considering the university's concern with it's own architecture.

June 16 1998
This project is about the greenhouses in my neighborhood. The idea may sound mundane unless you know that I live in a town known as "The Flower Capital of the World," in which hundreds of acres are taken up with manufacture of flowers. This despite skyrocketing real estate costs in the highly prized coastal area north of San Diego. I've grown up around these structures of wood and plastic. Repetitious architecture spreading over acres, subtle differences of design becoming a common language even to locals who are not in the agribusiness.

I have memories of the glow coming in the window of my old room from the lights across the street. Bare bulbs diffused by the white plastic that made up the walls of the greenhouse - where they were fooling the plants into thinking it was daylight in order to harvest their blooms on schedule.

I also have memories of walking home from school in sixth grade and being "kissed" at by Mexican immigrant men working in these same greenhouses. It's no coincidence that the shacks these men lived in nearby, in canyons just below the new housing developments, were made of the same material as the building in which they worked.

Now, as I walk in this same neighborhood in the evening I am struck by the beauty of these building, in various stages of repair and disrepair. The evening light filters through their plastic skins, making them seem lyrical despite their overwhelming presence. I sometimes wonder how they survive.













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Our neighbors, Seacoast Greenhouses, post-bankruptcy.

#1 (5mg)
#2 (1mg)
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#4 (3mg)