Mark Mills' Professional Papers and Drawings
A mid-century modernist architect

Mark Mills was a mid-century modernist California architect, whose homes reflected his clients' diverse tastes as well as the rugged coastal landscape. He designed the Fan Shell House, set into the sand-dune area of Pebble Beach with panoramic ocean views, and the Copper Spine House perched on a rocky promontory in the Carmel Highlands. In addition to making his own mark, Mills also worked for Frank Lloyd Wright and with Italian architect Paolo Soleri.

This year, Special Collections and University Archives were gifted with Mark Mills' professional papers and drawings. Mills had no connection to Cal Poly other than his admiration for the university's Architecture Department and our students' talent. It was out of this respect and due to Special Collections' preservation skills that the Mills collection was donated.


The gift represents a high point in years of collaboration between Special Collections and the Architecture Department and reflects efforts to support the hands-on use of primary sources in research and teaching. A boon to students, faculty and scholars, the Mills collection has attracted graduate students completing doctoral dissertations and scholars engaged in the rarely-seen modernist architecture of coastal California. The Mills collection also enhances the department's other manuscript collections focused on the California modernist vernacular including those of Palm Springs architect William F. Cody.

Learn by Doing

After the Mills papers and drawings were received in November last year, the collection of more than 900 tracings was arranged and described by fifth year architectural student Cailin Swarm under the supervision of Special Collections archivists. Swarm gained an intimate view of the collection while imparting her architectural knowledge to better describe the collection.

Department of Architecture Associate Professor Don Choi spoke enthusiastically about the new acquisition.

"Students can learn how one architect developed architecture that addressed the specific culture and environment of California, combining influences from Frank Lloyd Wright and other sources to create a personal yet contextual approach to design," said Choi.

"The architectural drawings in the collection show how Mills designed architectural details integral to his vision of the building as a whole. Students interested in design-build will find Mills' comprehensive approach particularly intriguing."

The Mark Mills collection is open to researchers and can be found on the fourth floor of the library.

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