Andrea Simoncelli, an Italian architect who worked in John Lautner’s office from November 1971 until October 1975, died in Rome August 16, 2010.
He worked on many projects in Lautner’s office, among them the Hope residence in Palm Springs, for which he drew the presentation drawings. When he first came to Los Angeles his command of English was limited, but by the time he left for home he could converse easily in this new language. Andrea lit up the small crew with his sense of humor and passion. John Caldwell, also in the office then, writes:
I will always remember Andrea as a dedicated and challenging architect. We had lots of laughs together and sometimes we thought “trouble” was his middle name. It is funny what you remember about people. I went home with him once for lunch and was surprised when I went into the bathroom and found almost every object labeled with a note: “faucet”, “water closet”, etc. He was preparing for his California licensing exam and was brushing up on his English technical terms. In the end it was the use of an “English” word that was his demise at the exam. The exam’s design problem was a bank with a drive-up teller with stacking for 6 cars. Someone finally explained “stacking” to him in this context during a toilet break but it was too late for him to successfully complete that phase of the exam.
He was a great architect and a wonderful warm person who never did anything half way. We will miss you.
As a thank you to Lautner, who helped him gain visa extensions, allowing him a longer time to work in the U.S., Andrea offered to share his Rome with Lautner’s daughter Judith, who was also working in the office then. The two left for Rome in December 1974. Judy stayed in Andrea’s mother’s apartment for a month, trying desperately to pick up a bit of Italian (she took hope from Andrea’s progress in English) and making forays around Rome and to other cities in Italy on her own. From time to time she would go places with Andrea, to his friends’ apartments or to parties given by other friends, and to meet his former architect employer, but for the most part Andrea was involved in a whirlwind of activity of his own, trying to catch up with his left-behind life. Judy met two of Andrea’s three sons at some (long, beautifully-cooked) meals. They were about five at the time and hard-working well-behaved little schoolboys. His youngest son, Oliver Manzi, had this to say about his father:
My father was always drawing.
Whether on the phone, at a restaurant, or discussing alimony with my mother, he always had a pencil that he’d slip out of his breast pocket, and while his interlocutor would speak, he would draw on any surface at hand.
He had tremendous energy and no patience. He would speak his mind even if it would land him in trouble, and would gobble up life as fast as he could eat a plate of spaghetti, which believe me was shockingly fast.
When it came to art and life, he had a craving for immediacy. Immediate emotions.
He used to tell me: “I like painters that paint with their arm.”
I believe this applied to architects as well, including John, whom my father adored.
I will always be indebted to my father for instilling in me a love for the arts.
In his last 15 years his illness confined him to his house in Rome, but despite this he remained fun, impulsive and charming to the end. My two older brothers, Cesare and Oscar Simoncelli, and I will miss him dearly.
Perhaps no more needs to be said about this man, who was so full of energy, humor, generosity, and creativity. If you remember Andrea, however, please feel free to send your thoughts to us at comments (at) johnlautner (dot) org and we may find a way to expand this article to include them.
Thank you, Oliver Manzi, for the photographs of Andrea