In the gorgeous San Diego County, beautiful architecture is everywhere. Set on sprawling estates with stunning landscaping, the Spanish Revival houses in Rancho Santa Fe will take your breath away. Residents feel lucky to own one of these remarkable properties but owning a home designed by Lillian Rice herself is an even more rarefied privilege.
She was a trailblazer
Born in National City, San Diego County to two supportive and academically-minded parents, Lillian Rice was one of the first women to graduate from the University of California Berkeley's architecture program. She was only the tenth woman to get a license to practice architecture in California. Rice could have started working in an architecture firm right after graduation with her credentials and talent but she decided to return home to care for her mother. Subsequently, she became a draftswoman for Hazel Wood Waterman – the first female architect in San Diego. Rice also continued her education so she could earn a teaching certificate.
Her career was short but impactful
The architecture firm of Requa and Jackson had been commissioned by the Santa Fe Land Improvement Company to build a community on the site of a former Spanish land grant Rancho San Dieguito. Requa believed Rice was more than capable of the job and she began drafting up plans for a Civic Center in the community which would be later known as Rancho Santa Fe. Once Lillian Rice completed her plans for the center, she focused her attention on the community's residential area. Requa and Jackson gave her complete creative freedom to develop the 8,000 acres of land. Although Requa and Jackson get some credit for trusting Lillian Rice with such a large project, it's clear to historians that Rice blew them away with her expertise.
Inspired by the natural beauty of Rancho Santa Fe, Lillian Rice believed simplicity was the best way to highlight the town's magnificent surroundings. She designed her buildings to reflect these ideas in form, line, and color. She developed a Spanish Revival style by incorporating elements found in Spanish villages such as inner courtyards, red-tiled roofs, and grillwork around entrances. While Spanish Revival was not uncommon in the architecture world, many credit Rice for making the style prevalent in California. She took on at least sixty houses in Rancho Santa Fe including the restoration and expansion of an 1831 home of the first mayor of San Diego.
She's still remembered for her work 100 years later
Although many of the homes she designed in Rancho Santa Fe have been renovated, residents revere her designs. While living in Rancho Santa Fe, Rice belonged to a jury that ensured new buildings adhered to the design principles and standards of the community. Today, the Home-Owners Association for Rancho Santa Fe still upholds Rice's standards for quality and her belief architecture should not displace natural surroundings. As they make decisions about the community's aesthetic, they ask themselves, "What would Lillian do?"