July 12, 1921 ~ June 6, 2007†
Mark Mills was born and raised in the copper mining town of Jerome, AZ where his father managed the mine. Carpenters and carpentry were among his earliest memories. This was because the mining company kept a permanent crew of carpenters to straighten doorframes, etc. after underground blasting in the mine.
Mills graduated with a degree in engineering from the University of Colorado in 1944. Then he worked for a year for Lockheed Aircraft in Los Angeles.
Long an admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture, Mark obtained an interview with him.† Mr. Wright asked him one question.† "Can you build a box?"† "I can," Mills answered.† Mark remained with Frank Lloyd Wright for four years.† As an apprentice, he learned many things including how to milk a mare (demonstrated by Wright himself), how to sing in a choir, cook, clean out a septic tank and how to design and construct a building with the Wright trademark-beauty.†
Mr. Wright designed a residence for Mrs. Clinton Walker in Carmel. While it was being built, Mark helped with the construction.† (This home stands at the south end of Carmel Beach and overlooks it.)† When Mrs. Walker offered him the chance to plan and build two homes in Carmel for speculation, Mills decided to settle here.
He met and married his wife, Barbara, who lived on Partington Ridge in Big Sur.† Henry Miller was their next-door neighbor.† Mark and Barbara recalled dinners by kerosene lights when Henry spun his compelling stories. (Electricity had not yet come to Partington).† Soon Mark began to have clients.† Always, he claimed his "first client" was nature.† Because he respected nature, his residences in California and elsewhere fit unobtrusively into their sites.† Indeed, some are hard to find because they meld into their surroundings.
Mills' architecture has received national recognition.† A set of his plans done with his friend, Paolo Soleri, is in the New York Museum of Modern Art.† His work has appeared in books, magazines and on TV.† Unlike most architects, Mark could build with his own hands any wood frame structure he drew.† Using a few basic tools, he constructed single-handedly five homes where he and his family lived over the years.† When designing a building, Mills never sketched.† All creative work was done in his head, "drawn" in his mind. Only when he had an architectural design, complete with details, did he touch paper.† All his tracings were done by hand.† The lines on them are delicate as a spider's web.
Mark had a sense of the ridiculous.† Those who knew him will miss his humor. He never pushed for publicity and was an unassuming man, happiest with a saw and hammer or holding a drafting pencil.† To say he was a loving husband and father is an understatement.† He was the keel to all his family's sailing days.
Thanks to his devoted family and good Hospice home care, he died at home tranquilly after a long struggle with cancer.†
He is survived by his wife of fifty-three years and daughters, Noel and Blasť, both of Carmel.†
His family, architecture and Catholic faith formed the bedrock of his life.† A memorial Mass for him will be held at a later date.