Funding shortages, insufficient knowledge of materials and technology, and conflicting interests are often the hurdles that preservationists face in the fight to save 20th century modernist landmarks. In recent years we've lost Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago and Neutra's Cyclorama at Gettysburg to demolition, and soon Paul Rudolph's Government Center in Goshen will likely meet the same sad fate. The Getty Foundation, however, is taking steps to protect other significant buildings of this period through its second annual Keeping it Modern grant initiative, totaling $1.75 million. The organization announced 14 international projects that will receive grant funding, including such buildings as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple, Walter Gropius’ residence ‘The Gropius House,’ and João Batista Vilanova Artigas and Carlos Cascaldi’s School of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of São Paulo (FAUUSP). “Last year’s launch of Keeping It Modern emphasized that modern architecture is a defining artistic form of the 20th century at considerable risk, often due to the cutting-edge building materials that characterized the movement,” said Deborah Marrow, director of the Getty Foundation. “This new round of Keeping It Modern grants includes some of the finest examples of modern architecture in the world. The grant projects address challenges for the field of architectural conservation and will have impact far beyond the individual buildings to be conserved.” Below, see the remaining projects.
Posts tagged with "Neutra":
While Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were busy fighting for supremacy at Pebble Beach last weekend, another important battle was taking place just down the street (unbeknownst to almost everyone). Richard Neutra's 4,124 square foot Connell House (1958) in Pebble Beach is being slated for demolition in favor of a 12,000 square foot behemoth mega-mansion. The new home was proposed in December, and still needs several permissions for approval. Author Barbara Lamprecht, author of Richard Neutra: Complete Works (Taschen), has written a letter to the Monterey County Planning Department urging it to save the "aesthetically compelling, spatially complex house," with its "careful asymmetric composition of volumes and opposing opaque (stucco) and transparent (glass) planes." She encourages others to contact the department as well. Think of it as a pro/am for architecture buffs.
After a lengthy battle Richard Neutra's Kronish House in Beverly Hills has been saved. Completed in 1955, the house, considered one of Neutra's finest (and largest), came very close to its demise this summer after its new owners refused preservationists' pleas and began the demolition process. But after the outcry got louder, the owners placed the demolition on hold, and now a buyer with an interest in restoring the home has just closed on the house. Redfin lists the price at $12.8 million, and the buyer remains a mystery. Meanwhile the city of Beverly Hills still has no preservation ordinance, although officials claim to be developing one. Let's get moving Beverly Hills, before another masterpiece isn't so lucky.
Steve Jobs would have been proud. So would Richard Neutra. The Neutra VDL House in Silver Lake now has its own iPad App. Developed by Sarah Lorenzen and David Hartwell, the app includes stunning new pictures of the iconic modernist house, tons of information about Neutra, an annotated historic timeline of the home, guided virtual tours, and information about the house's design, construction, and materiality. We especially love the 3d models, plans, and sections, which can be rotated on axis, giving you a new understanding of the house and providing some classic iPad fun.
Last month we reported on Beverly Hills' virtually nonexistent preservation policies and the destructive results for Modern architecture. Well those (lack of) rules seem to be at issue again, as we learn from Curbed LA that Richard Neutra's 1955 Kronish House is for sale, with a listing on Redfin emphasizing the land's "huge upside potential as a major estate." The listing does not even mention the name Neutra. The 7,000 square foot home on two acres was foreclosed on in January at $5.8 million. The listing invites buyers to "Bring your contractor to remodel the existing single story mid century home or build your dream home." According to the city it's too early to take any action, since no sale has taken place and no plans have been proposed. "As far as the city is concerned it's just a house for sale," said Beverly Hills spokesperson Therese Kosterman. "We can only deal with a proposal that's before us." Hopefully that proposal won't involve tearing down yet another midcentury masterpiece.
If you love the work of Richard Neutra or his son Dion, check out the round of festivities in LA this weekend that we like to call NEUTRAPALOOZA! They're otherwise known as the Neutra Practice 85th anniversary Celebration Party. Our favorite event is the "Followers of Famous Design Fathers" symposium on Saturday, which will include Eric Lloyd Wright, Emily Ain, and Nathaniel Kahn, among others. And for you lucky Neutra house owners, there's the Reunion of Neutra Owners, Clients, Collaborators, and Builders later in the day. The events end on Sunday with a comprehensive Neutra Interiors tour and a tour of Neutra's famous Lovell Health House in Los Feliz. If you're a Neutra fan you really shouldn't miss this. And if you're not, you'll probably become one if you go. Either way you can't lose.
As promised yesterday, we are going paparazzi. We have pix of the architecture event of the week: the opening of LA's A+D Museum. (See Slideshow Here). The event drew hundreds into the museum's brand new space, a beautiful white jewel box located on the ground floor of a midcentury office building. Guests were treated to tunes from KCRW DJ Tom Schnabel, and bid on works of art and sculpture created by some of LA's biggest architects and cultural icons. Big names contributing work included Bruce Mau, Max Neutra, Lorcan O'Herlihy, Thom Mayne, Richard Meier, Hitoshi Abe, and many more. And so it begins for a museum that has for years been known for not having its own space. Welcome home.
AN contributor Michael Webb not only writes about Modernism, but he lives it: for the last 31 years he has resided in one of the units in Richard Neutra's Strathmore Apartments in Westwood. According to Webb, developer Landventures is proposing to build a five-story block directly across the street from the Neutra apartments, which would block light and views, aggravate the noise and congestion on a heavily trafficked street, and "degrade an architectural masterpiece." He and other residents are encouraging people to attend tommorow night's hearing of the Westwood Community Design Review Board (7pm in the community room A of the Westside Pavilion at Pico and Westwood) to oppose the project. To see what the apartments mean to Webb, check out this essay he wrote about his unit a few years ago: I live in an apartment that feels like a tree house on a hilltop just north of Westwood Village, two blocks from UCLA. I moved in 27 years ago, drawn here by the timeless beauty of a modern complex that was built in the year I was born—1937. The architect was Richard Neutra, an Austrian immigrant who settled in LA in 1925, quickly won acclaim for the Lovell Health house in the Hollywood Hills, and went on to design 300 modern houses in his 45-year career. Here, he borrowed his ground plan from the traditional bungalow court—a hollow square with an axial path leading through—but placed it on a steep slope with steps in place of a walkway and eight apartments climbing the hillside. Early photos show it as a white cubist sculpture standing alone; the trees that would shield and soften it came later. It proved a tough sell, so Neutra was delighted when Luise Rainer—another Austrian immigrant, who had won two Best Actress Oscars back-to-back—moved into what is now my apartment. She had separated from her husband, Clifford Odets, and was probably trying to elude her fans. In a letter to the architect she explained that she had always thought of modernism as being cold and unfriendly, but now felt a great sense of serenity. Orson Welles, newly arrived from New York, briefly lived across the way with Dolores del Rio, and Fritz Lang is reputed to have installed his mistress in a third apartment. However, the friendly ghosts in mine are those of Charles and Ray Eames, the designers who met at the Cranbrook School of Art, drove to LA in 1941 to pursue their careers undisturbed, and lived here until they built their own house in Pacific Palisades, eight years later. Ray Eames, writing in Mademoiselle, declared: “We live in the most modern house in LA.” For the Eameses, the airy hilltop apartment was a retreat as well as their first workshop, “offering moments of calm and rest and pleasure at the beginning and end of each day,” as Ray wrote. Neutra had provided “a beautifully clean and simple shell [that] imposes no style on the tenants, but leaves them free to create their own surroundings through color, texture, use of area and equipment needed for everyday life and activities.” I inherited a blank canvas and, having little to spend and no certainty I would stay, I camped out with a minimum of furnishings for the first 15 years, leaving doors and windows open through most of the year. The good proportions and abundant natural light were a blessed release from the claustrophobia of an old dark house that my ex wife had chosen in Washington DC. Then came the big quake of 1994, which spared the apartment and spurred me to celebrate the different traditions of modernity it stood for. With the encouragement of friendly professionals, and the participation of talented artisans, I’ve fleshed out the spaces as a tribute to the cool geometry of Neutra and the organic rigor of the Eameses. The goal was to foster a dialogue—enriched by personal memories and enthusiasms—between those giants, weaving together metal and wood, angles and curves, plain and colored surfaces. White stucco walls, ribbon windows with silver trim and a wood-strip floor provide the frame. To avert cabin fever--I often spend entire days at a time in this 1000-square-foot apartment when there’s a book to be finished--I wanted each space to have a distinct character. My bedroom is a homage to De Stijl, the Dutch modernists of the 1920s who enlivened their cubist compositions with primary red, yellow and blue, plus black, gray, and white. Everything in the room is in one of those tones and I felt justified in doing this because Neutra himself used iridescent blue tiles in one of the bathrooms. Waking, I feel I’m in a golden cornfield, with a clear blue sky above, and a comforting red glow behind me. The bed, Eames couch, and chest are black and a Navajo rug adds a splash of scarlet. The chest was designed by architect Lorcan O’Herlihy as a Constructivist composition of cantilevered drawers, some faced with woven steel mesh. Tom Farrage, a skilled metalworker, made the chandelier—a brushed aluminum disc like a full moon, with branching arms that spotlight witty artworks by Saul Steinberg, Claes Oldenberg, and a photographer friend, Jenny Okun. Ingo Maurer’s Don Quixote lamp sits atop a Saarinen side table; a deliberate contrast of klutzy and sleek forms. I spend most of my time in the office—the Eameses’ workroom, where they kept their “Kazam” press and boarded Gregory Ain—so I’ve made it as serene and functional as I could. A broad ash ply worktop wraps around two sides of the room, supported on filing cabinets in the Cherokee red that Wright popularized, and industrial-grade Douglas fir plywood shelves, made by Jim Matranga, Frank Gehry’s favorite carpenter, complete the circuit. The stucco is painted celadon, the ceiling a shade lighter than the walls, complementing the charcoal gray sisal carpeting, two chairs--the Aeron and Gehry’s CrossCheck--and wood Venetian blinds. A row of turned wood bowls occupy the raised glass top of stepped bookshelves, and there’s a forcola (goldola rowlock) hand-carved in Venice by one of the last surviving craftsmen, and a fragment of beeswaxed paneling from an early English Tudor house—a crude provincial copy of a Renaissance model. Also, three vintage photos: Mark Shaw’s shot of the Kennedy’s sailing off Hyannisport in the election summer of 1960, Horst’s surrealist study of a Balmain hat taken in Paris in 1938, and Andreas Feininger’s 1942 view of mid Manhattan, taken from the Jersey palisades with a telephoto lens that flattens six blocks of backlit towers, giving the city the ethereal air of a Japanese ink wash painting. As in the bedroom, there’s a deliberately jarring juxtaposition: Maurer’s whimsical Mozzkito table lamp and Sapper’s rigorous flat screen IBM computer. Handcarved Finnish birch birds dangle from a ceiling light. Black and white vintage photos are a passion I’ve had to curb for lack of wall space. I still believe with Mies that “less is more”—though I’m always willing to consider one more treasure. The hall leading past the kitchen (Neutra’s floor plan is as traditional as his exterior is modern) is hung with shots of Paris in the 1950s, culminating in a classic image by Melvin Sokolsky of a fashion model appearing to float in a plexi bubble on the Seine. In the living room, everything is sensuously rounded—from the molded plywood frames of the Eames and Aalto lounge chairs and a tubular metal sofa by Gilbert Rhode, to the truncated glass oval of the dining table, and the sexy Philippe Starck side chairs. The living room is my laboratory, a place to mix elements and see what the chemical reactions may be, and a place to show off favorite things. A hand-tufted Chinese silk rug, designed by two young Americans in an abstracted wood-grain pattern, is echoed in the wire base of a Warren Platner coffee table and a bamboo sculpture of torqued curves by Syoryu Honda. Bamboo pieces by Kenichi Nagakura—one inspired by a bird’s nest, another by a Henry Moore draped figure—complement the Honda. (A third is pinned to the bathroom wall). Two sculptural paper lamps by Ingo Maurer cast their reflections in Nolli’s map of Rome with its labyrinth of streets and squares. A Richard Serra etching, as violent as an explosion of molten lava, arches over a curvilinear drinks trolley with glass shelves and a goatskin-covered frame that was made in Italy around 1950. An Australian aboriginal painting—a stylized map of white dots—is displayed against a black Eames screen, and the Eameses’ leg splint—mocked up in this apartment in 1942—hangs over the entrance. Finnish glass, metal sculptures, framed photos of Rainer and the Eameses in this apartment, along with fragments of celebrated buildings sit atop wall-mounted book shelves of glass and black-laquered wood. Sixty four steps lead up to my front door, dense foliage shuts out the street noise, and my desk is a few steps from my bed. So it’s tempting to live the life of a recluse, surrounded by books and art, enjoying the play of sunlight through the day, and writing without distractions. For most of the year I can sit out on the narrow terrace among the tree tops. Sitting there, I reflect on how Neutra’s machine has been swallowed up by its garden, and how the house that was new when the Eameses moved in has become one of LA’s youngest Historic-Cultural Monuments.
It's rare that journalists get to live the fabulous life. So when we do, we have to share it with you. Myself and AN contributor Greg Goldin took part in a great media panel on Friday in Palm Springs for the California Preservation Foundation Conference, with co-participants including author Alan Hess, Christopher Hawthorne (LA Times), Martha Groves (LA Times) and Kimberli Meyer (MAK Center). But what we really want to brag about was our dinner that night at Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House; one of the most famous homes in America. The modernist gem sold for $19 million at a Christie's auction last year, only for the sale to fall through shortly after. Thanks to the generosity of the house's owner Beth Harris—one of the conference organizers— we and other attendees spent the evening dining on Pad Thai, wandering the house, and gazing out at the surrounding mountains at sunset. This was no tour. This was experiencing Kaufmann for real. The home was recently renovated by LA firm Marmol Radziner, who spared no expense in returning it to its original state. Meanwhile the owners have increased its lot, which is full of great desert features, so it feels at one with the landscape around it. Harris also entertained us with stories, such as the time she returned home only to find that her mother had welcomed in a tour bus full of European students, having assumed that they had a planned tour. We also learned of the nearby animals, like skunks and bats, that like to hang out and try to take advantage of the home's indoor outdoor features.