Mark Mills Papers, 1939-2010 (bulk 1950-1995) MS 175
The papers of Architect Mark Mills are comprised of correspondence, legal documents, photos, architectural drawings and plans, marketing and public relations materials for his practice, and presentation drawings. Architectural plans and drawings for single-family residences, ranging from 1950-1995 make up the bulk of the collection.
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- Title: Mark Mills Papers, 1939-2010 (bulk 1950-1995)
- Collection Number:MS 175
- Creator: Mills, Mark, (1921-2007)
- Extent: 14 boxes, 24 flat file drawers, 11.18 linear feet
- Language: English
Mills was born in Jerome, Arizona to the manager of a copper mine there. He attended the University of Colorado where he received a BS in architectural engineering. Upon graduation he returned to Arizona to work as a draftsman for the architecture firm Lescher and Mahoney. Shortly after starting there, he received a telegram inviting him to meet the renowned Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1944, Mills interviewed with Wright for an apprenticeship at his firm, Taliesin West. Mills moved to Scottsdale, AZ and spent the next four years working under Wright and learning about design and building from the ground up.
In 1948, Mills and Paolo Soleri got their first commission for a small desert residence in Cave Creek, AZ. Dome House as it came to be known, was primarily a concrete cave dug into the desert floor with a large dome over one section. The glass panels of the "umbrella" could be rotated to follow the path of the sun, thus providing passive solar heating and cooling.
After building the Dome House, Mills and Soleri parted ways, Soleri returning to his native Italy and Mills heading west to San Francisco. In San Francisco, Mills worked briefly for the firm Anshen + Allen before settling in Carmel where he started his own practice. He worked alone from his home in Carmel for the next 52 years until his death in 2007.
Carmel and Big Sur provided Mills with clients who had unique ideas about how they wanted to live. Some of these clients allowed him to design structures on seemingly "unbuildable" sites. In addition to the wishes of his clients, Mills had what he called "the silent client." This was the site itself. He respected it. His structures fit gracefully into their natural surroundings. They preserve, not violate, the environment. They do not exist to make an "architectural statement." Often, they seem hidden until one comes close to them.
Though structures designed by Mills are very different from each other, they bear his character: structural elegance and a reverence for space. Imagination aided by a background in architectural engineering allowed him to push boundaries beyond other architects of his time. Some of his most famous works are residences such as Copper Spine House or Hass House that are anchored into the cliffs along the seashore and use concrete shell roofs.
Bennett, Janey. "Work of Mark Mills: Structural Elegance and A Sense of Reverent Space." Journal of the Taliesin Fellows. Issue 10, Spring 1993, pgs 18-29.
Gordon, Alastair. "Maritime Modern." Architectural Digest. Oct. 2009, Vol. 66, Issue 10, pgs. 50-53.
Gordon, Alastair. "Outlaw Architect." Dwell Magazine. July/August 2004, Vol. 4, No. 7, pgs. 101-107.
Mills, Barbara. 4 Jan 2012. Biographical Note editorial.