Santa Monica, Los Angeles County,
The Annenberg Center is the fomer beach and party hub of Marion Davies, mistress of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. In the 30s and 40s it was a heavily patronized social center for the royalty of Hollywood. After a period of decline it was purchased by the City of Santa Monica and converted to a community center. The guesthouse and pool, designed by Julia Morgan, were the only remaining sgnificant portions of the original compound to remain. Restoration of these artifacts included disassembly of the marble components for the pool surround, restoration using epoxy mortars, and reinstallatin and treatment to render the natural stone surfaces compatible with the presence of so much moisture.
Marble and ceramic tile were the media restored on this Julia Morgan-designed pool.
The compound was a local landmark, but benign neglect and wanton destruction had intervened over the years to leave only remnants of its former glory.
The original marble pool surround was one of these elements, and special attention was paid to the preservation of these remaining historic surfaces.
The original marble was quite similar to the surround of the pool at UC Berkeley, designed in the same period by Morgan and also funded by the Hearst family. Stone from the quarries of Vermont was used and we were fortunate to be able to draw from the current iteration of this famous and long-used source of building material.
The marble water channels at the pool's perimeter had been especially ill-treated. Because of the constant exposure to chemical-saturated pool water and the natural clays inherent in this type of stone, there were widespread examples of deterioration and loss. Our project started with the challenge of removing previously applied water-repellant treatments to stop this moisture-related decay, including epoxy coatings.
Additionally, almost all of the ceramic tile in the pool basin had endured massive glaze failure from the same water and chemical-related decay mechanism.
Another image of the massive glaze failure caused by the same water and chemical-related decay mechanism.
Our first task was to identify and catalogue the losses of the marble gutter and deck surround.
Further intervention was required to save as much original fabric as possible during the heavy construction phase of the project.
Our colleagues at Griswold Conservation Associates were engaged to perform the difficult task of infill painting at all the glaze loss of the polychromed tile, using custom-colored epoxy-based products.
Once previous coatings had been successfully removed, we used an epoxy-based fill material colored to the generic green of the stone to fill the fissures and areas of loss. Once cured, excess material could be sanded away to reveal a uniform and durable marble surface.
All the marble inserts, previously removed, were reinstalled in the new concrete deck.
After regrouting and infill of surface losses, the marble deck was carefully honed to yield a uniform and non-slip surface. Final treatment included the application of a water-repellant sub-surface sealer to help the stone resist the penetration of moisture.
One of our contributions to the deck surface was the addtion of waterjet-cut contrasting marble inlay units to denote the depth of the pool. This allowed us to conform to current codes while avoiding the inappropriate use of surface-mount lettering.
The original ladders were unfortunately missing, but an alternative allowed us to make them usable without their removal.
By using similar-colored but different marble to terminate the grab rails at the edge, we were able to meet code requirements as well as to insert new marble elements without abridging the need to avoid inappropriate addtions to an historic feature. This approach is similar in spirit to the restoration of antiquities, where additions or changes are always left as visually obvious.
The restored Julia Morgan Pool is a community resource for the people of Santa Monica and testimony to what can be achieved through careful restoration and adaptive re-use.