A. Quincy Jones spent his childhood in Gardena, CA, but left to attend architecture school in Seattle, where he was particularly influenced by Lionel Pries. After graduating in 1936, and marrying fellow architect Ruth Schneider, he returned to Southern California to begin his work in earnest, with Douglas Honnold, George Vernon Russell and Burton Schutt. In 1939, he worked for prestigious modernist architect Paul Williams. This led to a position for Allied Engineers in San Pedro, where he supervised the development and layout of Roosevelt Base, and where he met his future partner Fredrick Emmons. The two of them eventually went on to work not only on residences together, but also would apply urban planning and large scale design to universities and other public spaces.
After serving in the Navy during WWII, A. Quincy Jones returned to LA, and eventually teamed up again with Paul Williams on a number of projects in Palm Springs, and participated in the Case Study House program. In 1950, the coincidental placement of his award for “Builder’s House of the Year”, was put on the opposite page of Palo Alto builder Joseph Eichler, who won a “Subdivision of the Year” award. This prompted Eichler to contact Jones, and resulted in their partnership lasting until Eichler’s death in 1974.
Their firm was responsible for some of the first greenbelt additions in tract home developments, combining park spaces and residences in seamless harmony. The integration of green common space in urban planning set the standard for housing development even to this day. As the Eichler commission gained notoriety and grew, Jones brought on Frederick Emmons, a pre-war acquaintance, who remained his partner until 1969. This partnership would produce 5,000 homes, and many awards, including AIA firm of the year.
A. Quincy Jones wore many other hats, which kept his work innovative and challenging. He worked as a city planner, responsible for the development of Irvine, Ca, which would showcase the method of greenbelt urban planning. In addition to residences, he designed a number of university campuses, including many at USC, where he was also the Dean of Architecture. His work on large office complexes and estates can be seen throughout Southern California, such as the IBM Aerospace Headquarters, and Sunnylands, the sprawling estate of Walter Annenberg. One of his most notable celebrity homes was for Gary Cooper, built in 1950. Cooper and his wife were both passionate about design and nature, and found inspiration in Jones, saying “It was so advanced in outline, that we sometimes wonder if we’re in the year 2000.”
A. Quincy Jones firm remained vital and relevant partly because of his insistence that they always had residential projects in work, for the purpose of trying new materials, methods and innovation which he could then apply to a larger scale. He took the model for early tract homes from stucco boxes to complex but efficient spaces, for a modest cost, incorporating prefabricated elements. This approach bridged the gap between custom built and merchant built homes, and provided a higher level of enjoyment and quality of living.