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Robson Chambers (1919-1999)

Robson_ChambersBorn: Los Angeles, California
Education: University of Southern California, 1941
Best known for: A long career with Albert Frey, first with John Porter Clark as a trio and then with only Frey. Outside the area, Chambers’ credits range from the Salton Sea’s nautically inspired North Shore Yacht Club to St. Michael’s-by-the-Sea Church in Carlsbad. Its angled roofline that rises into a peak bears similarity to a more iconic Chambers’ project, the Tramway Gas Station. Constructed of rose beige concrete block, the church was a modern departure in its genre, complete with exposed ceiling beams made of Douglas fir, a triangular bell tower, and no square corners for acoustical reasons.

Before arriving in the desert, Robson Chambers worked for five years at an architectural firm in L.A. and, as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, helped design Camp Pendleton in Oceanside.

His Palm Springs story began in 1946 with a seat in the busy office of John Porter Clark and Albert Frey, which had been producing early modernism for a decade. The firm’s innovation continued with Chambers on board, and he was made partner of Clark, Frey & Chambers in 1952. The firm completed Palm Springs City Hall during this era, a massive five-year undertaking in collaboration with Williams, Williams & Williams that was completed in 1957. By this time, Clark had left the firm to focus on non-residential work in private practice. Chambers stayed with Frey for another decade, during which they designed a second residence for Raymond Cree and Frey House II.

Chambers moved to Santa Barbara in 1966 to become campus architect for the University of California, Santa Barbara until 1980. His next move to Borrego Springs led him to maintain a small private practice through which he designed a number of local residences and the St. Barnabas Episcopal Church (1986). The year before his passing, Chambers returned to Santa Barbara to donate many of his drawings to UCSB’s Architectural Drawing Collection.

Other Notable Properties:

  • Chambers’ personal residence, 1947
  • Palm Springs City Hall, 1957
  • Salton Sea’s North Shore Beach and Yacht Club, 1959
  • St. Michael’s-by-the-Sea Church in Carlsbad, 1959
  • Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Valley Station, 1963
  • Tramway Gas Station, 1964
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