Born in Redlands, CA, Harwell Hamilton Harris grew up in the Imperial Valley area and later attended San Bernardino High School. In 1923, he moved to Los Angeles to wait at the Otis Art Institute, and in 1925, he started to have a look at drawing and painting with Stanton Macdonald-Wright at the Art Students League. He enrolled at the Frank Wiggins Trade School and observed work in the studio of Richard Neutra. His ambition to be a sculptor changed into modified after journeying to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House. It became an epiphany for him to observe structure in preference to natural art.

He soon joined the architecture program at the University of California, Berkeley. But he never got there because he got work with Richard Neutra and Rudolf Schindler. Neutra was disappointed that he didn’t take formal classes in architecture, though he studied under Neutra at the Los Angeles Academy of Modern Art. While in Neutra’s office, she worked for Lovell Health House and Rush City Competition. Neutra was a master of advertising, a skill Harris recognized and used in his career.

1933, Harwell Hamilton Harris left the Neutra office and established his independent practice in Los Angeles. His first commissions were tiny houses based on a modular design, applying modernist principles learned in the workshops of Neutra and Schindler. In 1937, John Entenza, editor of California Arts and Architecture, who had influence, commissioned Harris to design his home.

In 1943, Harris moved to New York, where he taught at Columbia University. In 1944, he returned to California, and in 1952, Harris accepted a position as Dean of the School of Architecture at The University of Texas. Although he lacked formal architecture training and professional experience, he sought to change teaching methods by expanding school programs. Harris involved some students directly in the design process when he collaborated with them at the Texas State Fairhouse (1954), giving them real experience in design and installation.

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