After a full day of classes, Rafael Fontes is excited to get home, but this is no ordinary abode. It’s known as the Gamble House, and Fontes is one of two University of Southern California architecture students that get to live here for the better part of a year.

  • USC student one of two who gets to live in Gamble House for a year
  • House is leading example of high style Craftsman architecture
  • Built by Greene & Greene firm which helped shape Pasadena's architecture

A dual degree graduate candidate in urban planning and heritage conservation, Fontes says living in this National Historic Landmark is a privilege and honor.

“So within the context of Southern California art, architecture, design and culture, the Gamble House is the most intact example of a high style Craftsman house that we have with us today,” said Fontes. “And from a heritage conservation perspective, that's pretty incredible.”

Growing up in Tucson, Fontes was inspired by architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Lou Kahn, and Carlo Scarpa. But it wasn’t until he moved to Los Angeles that he learned about Greene & Greene, the architectural firm responsible for designing the Gamble House.

Since he moved in on his birthday, he’s become aware their influence on Pasadena.    

“For me what was really critical about preservation was that it gives us the opportunity to understand more perspectives, right? To bring in other stories,” says Fontes.

“It doesn't mean you erase what's there because those narratives are important too, but you build on them and you add more points of view, so that when people approach a place like the Gamble House, they’re not just thinking about the family that lived here, they can also think about the people who worked here, right, who lived in this very room.” 

Once the winter home of David B. Gamble of the Procter and Gamble Company, the house was donated to the City of Pasadena in 1966 in partnership with the USC School of Architecture. When a prospective buyer mused they might paint it white, donating it was the family’s only way to ensure the Gamble House would be properly preserved.

Today, Fontes finds solace in knowing the house is preserved for the public to enjoy.

“So I usually find myself in this space after a run and it often reminds me of when I was a child and I would water the plants for my parents and it kind of takes me back to a more zen or meditative space,” said Fontes.

He won’t be able to live in the Gamble House forever, but while he does, Rafael Fontes is enjoying every minute.