Ilan-Lael: The Place

Jim Big StudioA young boy once said that James Hubbell builds houses that trees aren’t embarrassed to stand next to. This is the artist’s favorite comment.

Having spent so many years wandering, it was time to take root and build a home. In 1958 a parcel of land was bought in the mountains, and by 1961 the land accommodated the first of many structures, each working with the natural shape and materials of the land. Often constructed all by hand, and always with a community of friends, each building was like an apprenticeship for the artist. A study in different methods of design, construction, and materiality, always learning and improving on the previous creation. Buildings were to fit into the landscape, using existing trees and rocks as precious objects to build around. No bulldozers were used and footings were hand-dug. Trees, wildflowers and brush were kept and appreciated for their beauty without irrigation.

The property now currently serves as home for the artist, studio for craftsmen, and aspires to be a community center and workshop for all.

  • The Artist's Studio

    Originally serving as bedroom, studio, kitchen, and bath, this first building, completed in 1960, was a simple square structure, made of adobe and Cedar lumber. The artist was inspired by the adobe structures of New Mexico where he lived for a time as a boy. This first building provided shelter, roots, and an understanding for working with the land.
  • Living Room and Kitchen

    Living AreaEventually more space was needed, and a new structure was built across from the existing to house a new kitchen and living space in 1962. A courtyard came to exist between the two shaded by indigenous trees and plant life. What better way to exemplify organic architecture than to have a house that grows from the land like an Oak, slowly, and as necessity dictates. Working with its environment, working as a part of nature.
  • The Big Studio

    Photo by Chris HenryThe next branch to grow from this expansive complex was the largest structure yet. Completed in 1965, housing equipment for iron work, wood work, and stained glass, this highly functional work space still retained a sculptural quality in its playfully installed bricks, high curved ceilings and artistic details scattered throughout the space.
  • The Kiva Gallery

    There was no set plan for property, and structures were built when commissioned work was slow. The artist would make up needs just to have an excuse to create. And so, built as a smaller, visual companion to The Big Studio, this gallery space has an undulating tile roof with iron trim that almost makes it resemble a jewelry box. It earned the name Kiva studio from the light tile in the middle of the floor, similar to Hopi concept of light coming in from the center Earth.
  • The Pool

    Photo by Chris HenryWhen asked if they preferred to have a pool or their own bedrooms first, the artist’s sons chose a pool. Completed in 1970, this space includes a gazebo for picnics, fountain, and of course beautiful tile work that makes the space seem both perfectly natural and otherworldly all at once.
  • The Boys' House

    Boys House -- InsideConstruction began in the 70s on this most fantastical of structures. The space holds two sleeping quarters, a bathroom, kitchenette, living space, and fire place. Incorporated into the walls and roof are four ceramic figures, four mosaic birds, and a seemingly endless amount of artistic swirls and eddies composed of an array of materials, gathered and donated by friends and colleagues. All coming together to form an eclectic, beautiful space that captures the imaginations of children and grown up children alike.
  • The Drafting Studio

    Drafting Studio -- Photo by Michael GerdesIn 1982 another studio was added, this time using a metal truss system covered in plaster. Each structure is a venture in a new building technique and this system of lightweight steel allowed for a large open space used mainly as an office space. It remains primarily a sculptural expression however, with intricately collaged wooden doors and grand sweeping arched ceilings.
  • The Sculpture Gallery

    A brightly lit space, and constructed to house the artist’s many sculptural creations, it is the first structure to greet you as you enter the property.
  • The Chapel

    Constructed with the aid of 13 students in 2009, this small but beautiful space overlooks the vast mountain ranges that surround the property. It is a space built for reflection and occasional weddings. 
  • Passage Garden

    Passage GardenCreated to bring life back to the property after the fire, these raised vegetable beds and herb garden also provide delicious food for the household.
  • Ilan-Lael Center

    Ilan-LaelCenter - Spring 2016The latest building on the property is the Ilan-Lael Center. A circular series of buildings, the spaces between holding as much beauty and interest as the spaces within. When approaching the entrance to the Center one is greeted by a sweeping set of stairs that lead to a roof patio. Beneath is a kitchen, bed, library, and bathroom so adorned with mosaics there is hardly a bit of plaster left undecorated. From there one passes through a glass courtyard into the general meeting space, distinguished by the property’s characteristically fluid roofs. Beyond that is the archive building and classroom space. Once completed, this Center aspires to be a place for people to come together, and to act at the heart of Ilan-Lael.