Posts tagged with "Richard Neutra":

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Richard Neutra’s Chuey House, a midcentury marvel, could be torn down

In the Hollywood Hills of California, a house by esteemed late architect Richard Neutra is in danger of being bulldozed. The midcentury modern home is listed on Redfin but is being marketed as a "truly unique development opportunity." The Austrian-American architect practiced for most of his career in Southern California, designing the iconic house for poet Josephine Ain Chuey in 1956. Located on 2460 Sunset Plaza Drive, the house offers expansive views over Los Angeles, taking in sights such as the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Park Observatory, Downtown Los Angeles, Century City, and Santa Monica. However, this may in fact be the property's downfall. Such sights are listed by Redfin, but missing is any description of the building. Redfin's description of the "lot" fails to include the glass walls Neutra designed, or the decking that cantilevers over a cliff and merges outdoor and indoor living. Chuey, unlike Redfin, was chuffed with the architect's work. "You are an alchemist who has transmuted earth, house, and sky into a single enchantment,” she wrote in a letter to him after moving in. “I can only hope that I can in some measure grow up to the wholeness and balance embodied here.” The poet lived in the house with her husband, the painter Robert Chuey. As Jamie Robinson of The Spaces notes out, Sylvia Lavin’s book Form Follows Libido: Architecture and Richard Neutra in a Psychoanalytic Culture, said that "[both] Mr. and Mrs. Chuey thought of the house as a device that would increase their creative energies." More fuel for creative energies was also present, as the house was also home to LSD experimentation by Timothy Leary. This too is omitted from the listing. The listing in fact includes very few images of the house, with most being of the views out over the Hollywood Hills. All this points to the indication that the house is not being sold as a place to live, but rather as something that can be knocked down.
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Orange Coast College expansion threatens designs by Neutra, Alexander, and Eckbo.

The future's looking grim for a dozen buildings on the Orange Coast College designed by Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander. A November vote by college trustees approved a plan for the demolition of several structures on the 164-acre campus, including Neutra’s planetarium and a cluster of low-slung brick buildings. Although the Orange Coast College Vision 2020 Facilities Master Plan suggests that these demolitions are needed in order to expand green space, the scheme would also destroy a historic landscape design by Garrett Eckbo (whose Fulton Mall in Fresno will soon face bulldozers). The L.A. Times reported that college officials say the mid-century structures on the Costa Mesa campus are “no longer able to accommodate the school's rising population. The campus was originally intended for 1,500 students and now has about 22,000.” AN spoke to Dr. Rich Pagel, administrative vice president at Orange Coast College, last year when we first reported on the possible tear-down. Then, he weighed the balance of future growth against historic value, and noted, “There’s a strong desire to preserve the history but at the same time we have to think about the next fifty years.” In July, The National Trust for Historic Preservation issued a letter to Jerry Marchbank, Coast Community College District’s senior director of Facilities Planning and Construction, in response to the Environmental Impact Report for the Orange Coast College Vision 2020 Facilities Master Plan. The letter reveals the scope for the college’s plan:

The Program EIR discloses the intent of Orange Coast College to construct of over 1.2 million square feet of new buildings, parking, and recreational use on the Orange Coast College campus in Costa Mesa in the next six years. Even though there is ample space to integrate new construction with existing buildings, the project anticipates demolition of 166,784 square feet of the campus footprint, which includes most of the existing core campus and the majority of contributing properties in the OCC Campus Historic District.

AN asked architect and historian Alan Hess to comment on the plan. Hess' own research and interest covers the complexities of Orange County preservation. He replied over email:

The college’s board back in the early 1950s had the vision to choose Neutra and Alexander, world-class architects at the time, to design their campus—quite a lot of confidence, sophistication and foresight for a small community college in Orange County when it was still largely rural (but on the verge of tremendous and often innovative growth.) That vision is lacking in the current board (and unfortunately much of the faculty), playing into the reputation of Orange Countyites as architectural Philistines. There are definitely feasible alternatives that can re-use the Neutra/Alexander buildings instead of throwing them away—and in today's world, the Neutra buildings' commitment to sustainability and green design should serve as a model for expansion, rather than be wasted.

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New York state parks to see a billion dollar influx of maintenance funding by 2020

After years of disinvestment, the New York park system is receiving the funding it needs to address more than a billion dollars of neglected maintenance across the state’s 213 parks and historic sites. Despite the much needed $89 million of funding received in 2012, thanks to a push from Governor Andrew Cuomo and an audit from the state controller’s office which found sections in the park in such disrepair that they had to be closed to the public, many parks are unable to operate in their full capacity due to crumbling amenities. The state plans to spend upwards of $900 million on improvements by 2020. This is a much-needed turnaround after 2010 when the state budget allotted no new money for improvements in the park system, triggering a report to be issued with the Alliance for New York State Parks called, Protect Their Future: New York State Parks in Crisis. However, most of the funding allotted to date is desperately needed to repair bathrooms, fix electrical issues, and pave roads—critical amenities—rather than to advance and improve the century-old park system. Compare this current situation to that of the 1950s and '60s, when a federally sponsored program called Mission 66 spent more than $1 billion between 1956 and 1966 to create modern infrastructure and improvements in the parks. The program created the concept of visitor centers and built more than 100 of them during its decade-long run. Architects like Eero Saarinen and Richard Neutra were commissioned to make parks a destination for architecture as well as landscape, and explore how the built and natural environments could play off of each other. That is not to knock the recent bout of funding, though. Letchworth State Park in Castile, New York, received a $5.75 million nature center in addition to a new electrical system and amenities; Niagara Falls has $50 million budgeted for upgrades to pedestrian walkways, lighting, and landscaping; and Jones Beach, on Long Island, is renovating a historic bathhouse and preparing the area to adapt to rising sea levels. Additionally, in January, the Excelsior Conservation Corps will launch its first group of 50 young volunteers who will work and live in the park system in exchange for a stipend. There are hopes that this movement is the beginning of many to usher in an era of the park system.
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Marmol Radziner’s Past Forays into Guerrilla Architecture

An architectural Banksy lurks behind the well-tailored facade of Marmol Radziner. While the architecture and design-build practice is best known for its modern and high-end contemporary designs—they recently received two preservation awards one from the California Preservation Design Awards for the rehab of Richard Neutra’s 1955 Kronish House and the Pioneer in Modern Restoration & New Design Award from the Palm Springs Modern Committee—the firm recently revealed that it has a radical soul. In the late 1990s the firm created a series of what we would now call tactical urbanism interventions—acts of guerrilla architecture that drew attention to issues around Los Angeles. Ron Radziner spoke earlier this fall at the AIA San Francisco's Architecture and the City Festival about the works he called Heavy Trash, thus linking the practice to previously anonymous installations. The title of the project came from the possible violation they’d be tagged with if caught: littering. As if the artifacts of their urban actions were like old furniture or construction debris left on the curb. Performed over a series of years, the interventions took different forms. A bright orange stair and viewing platform to peep over hedges and gates was spotted around town, showing up in Los Feliz, Brentwood, and Park La Brea to draw attention to fortressed spaces in the city. One of the earliest projects was a metal staircase in West Los Angeles. It provided access to a public park that had been cordoned off with a tall metal fence in order to keep out the homeless. What’s interesting about the installation is not only did it constitute a kind of protest to NIMBY attitudes in the neighborhood, but also the design reflected the material investigations going on in the office. The step detail—metal C-sections welded to a steel tube—is not so dissimilar to a staircase in a Beverly Hills residence. Asked about what could be seen as a cognitive dissidence between high-end homes and street art, Radziner bridged the gap by stressing the firm’s hands-on approach across the spectrum. “The projects came out of our ability to make things so easily,” he recalled recently. The Heavy Trash actions brought together the firm’s designers and fabricators in the workshop, who volunteered their time to produce the pieces. When it came time to install, the teams would don reflective vests and put out orange cones to make things look “official.” Perhaps the most prescient of their civic additions was a series of billboards erected in Santa Monica announcing a fictitious “Aqua Line” metro link from downtown Los Angeles to the beach. Radziner joked that the action made a difference on reality, “If you look at the Expo Line graphics, they are aqua.”
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Richard Neutra gets the star treatment in Palm Springs

  Architects may not get much respect in most American cities, but in Palm Spring, California they're stars! Today Richard Neutra who designed the city's famous Miller House in 1937 and, ten years later, the Kaufmann House will have a star dedicated in his honor on the sidewalk of Palm Canyon Drive just in front of the Palm Springs Architecture Museum. star-chitects-01 The Austrian emigre will join other architects on the sidewalk including: Albert Frey, Donald Wexler, E. Stewart Williams (who designed the city's architecture museum), William Krisel, and just next to the star of his friend the photographer Julius Shulman. All of these figures were important contributors to the significant architecture culture of this desert city and here they are not only honored but revered. star-chitects-02
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Sunday> Panel asks, “Why Isn’t the 1947 Neutra Kaufmann House on the National Register?”

Palm Springs Modernism Week is in its tenth year of celebrating the city's architectural masterpieces and tracts of mid-century modern houses. The Architects Newspaper is, for the sixth year, a media sponsor of Modernism Week, and we are here in the Mojave desert reporting on its numerous events. One of the highlights is the Sunday discussion and round table, "Why Isn’t the 1947 Neutra Kaufmann House on the National Register?" This working panel hosted by the California State Historic Resources Commission’s (SHRC) Modernism Committee will look at the Kaufmann house and other case studies in order to challenge "the integrity and standards used to evaluate National Register nominations" and ask whether they need to change when evaluating "the material realities of mid-century modern structures; materials that were often mass-produced, vulnerable, and easily replaced." The panel will include: architectural historian and California State Historic Resources Commission Beth Edwards Harris; well-known historian Alan Hess; Michigan preservationists Brian Conway, Katie Horak, Christine Lazzaretto. I am also on the panel and will discuss the research and remaking of the Lever Houses curtain wall. There are still a few tickets available for the event. Why Isn’t the 1947 Neutra Kaufmann House on the National Register? Hilton Palm Springs, Horizon Ballroom 400 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM, $12
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Visit Neutra’s “Drive-In Church” Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Saturday, January 31, Docomomo is hosting a unique tour, lecture, and reception at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove. The focus will be  Richard Neutra's "Drive In Church" for the complex, and its recently-restored 1961 Arboretum and 1968 Tower of Hope. Christ Cathedral founder Robert H. Schuller selected Neutra to design the facility, with an indoor/outdoor flexibility that allowed him to preach from a cantilevered pulpit to a congregation sitting in their cars. Later Neutra designed the adjacent Tower of Hope, which provided classrooms, office space and the New Hope Ministries. Visitors will also find out about renovation plans for Philip Johnson's Crystal Cathedral, which Schuller commissioned in 1977. That renovation is being led by Johnson Fain and Rios Clementi Hale. Speakers at the event will include architectural historians Barbara Lamprecht and Daniel Paul, and Docomomo US Executive Director Liz Waytkus.
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Neutra and Alexander’s Orange Coast College buildings facing threat

Here at AN we've seen our share of Richard Neutra tear downs in recent years. The latest possible victim is Neutra and Robert Alexander's campus-wide buildings at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, which are being threatened by the school's bond-supported Vision 2020 plan (pdf). If the plan passes the school could tear down the duo's classrooms, library, business education building, and science wing, as well as extensive landscaping by famed landscape architect Garrett Eckbo, in favor of new buildings, an Urban Street, and a Grand Lawn. The undertaking would be largely funded by 2012's $698 million Bond Measure R, and total about 250,000 square feet of new construction. According to the Cultural Landscape Foundation, "Rehabilitation of these sensitively designed productive buildings and landscape would be a more culturally and environmentally sensitive plan (especially in light of California’s severe drought cycle) than demolishing them and replacing them with turf." Neutra historian Barbara Lamprecht has noted how the original plan's "landscaping and buildings are finely meshed together with many interstitial spaces, covered walkways and breezeways, and volumes to permit changes in cadence and for rest. This low-rise weaving of light and shadow is a sharp contrast to what is proposed, a large quad surrounded by taller buildings, missing the gentle changes in scale evident in the existing campus." Per the the Vision 2020 facilities master plan, the school will need an additional 100,000 square feet of academic space by 2020, which the plan is seeking to address. Dr. Rich Pagel, Administrative Vice President at Orange Coast College, said the school's facilities planning committee has recommended a combination of preservation, reuse, and teardown with regard to the historic buildings, adding that they plan to hire a consultant to undertake a historical structures report. He acknowledged the buildings' legacy, but said the school needs to balance that with future growth. "When those buildings went up the campus was 1,500 students. Today we’re pushing 25,000 students," he said, adding that many of the facilities are outdated for today's learning. "There’s a strong desire to preserve the history but at the same time we have to think about the next fifty years," he said. According to a Historical Resources Technical Report for the project, the buildings could be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. A draft environmental impact report on the plan was completed in June, and the plan is now under review. The school's Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote on the buildings' fate in September or October. Local architect and preservationist John Linnert thinks partial preservation is a mistake: "Demolishing one and leaving two would only be a sad reminder of what once was, an amputation of sorts. Their is a wholeness that exists as a group. What is not understood sadly, is that underneath all of the over-the-years missteps, additions and poorly conceived modifications are buildings of great integrity and subtle yet powerful design."
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Look Out, Los Angeles: The Architecture & Design Film Festival Is Headed Your Way

This March, Angelenos will get front-row seats to the nation’s largest art, architecture, and urbanism–oriented film festival. Founded in 2009 in New York, the Architecture & Design Film Festival (ADFF) is coming to the West Coast for the first time March 12–16. The ADFF’s program includes 30 feature-length and short films, plus panel discussions, Q&A sessions with directors and subjects, special receptions, and a Hennessey + Ingalls pop-up bookshop. ADFF kicks off with a screening of If You Build It, a film by Patrick Creadon, directory of Wordplay and I.O.U.S.A. The feature-length documentary follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matt Miller through a year of work with high school students in rural North Carolina. Also screening on opening night is 16 Acres, on a decade of rebuilding Ground Zero, and Design is One: Massimo & Lella Vignelli, on the work of the husband-and-wife graphic design team. Films scheduled for the following four days range from biopics on designers including Paul Smith, Tadao Ando, and Paolo Soleri, to a short film on farming in Brooklyn, to the The Human Scale, a Danish feature film on Jan Gehl’s urbanism. The world premiere of TELOS: The Fantastic World of Eugene Tssui will take place on the second night of the festival. Three California-centric films are on the ADFF menu. The Oyler House: Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat looks at the relationship between Neutra and his working-class client. Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story, chronicles the community's destruction. Coast Modern is a video tour of modern houses from Los Angeles to Vancouver. And Levitated Mass tells the story of the 340-ton boulder’s journey from a Riverside quarry to its permanent home at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. ADFF is curated by Kyle Bergman and Laura Cardello. All events will be held at the Los Angeles Theatre Centre. For more information on ADFF, including a list of speakers (TBD), visit the festival website.
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On View > Inverting Neutra at the VDL House

Inverting Neutra Neutra VDL House 2700 Silverlake Boulevard Los Angeles Through September 7 Artist Bryony Roberts’ new project Inverting Neutra is the latest installation inside the landmark Neutra VDL house in Silver Lake. Roberts explores the landmark house’s many voids, filling them in with rows of blue cords hanging from aluminum frames; appearing to be a single system. And if you look carefully, the composition makes the house appear to respond to external conditions.  The cords’ color gradients respond specifically to light conditions; and they also move in response to wind conditions, especially those on the roof. We recommend going on a windy day.
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Pending Sale of Philadelphia’s Roundhouse Police Headquarters Spurs Campaign for Landmark Status

It has been a rough few months for modernist civic buildings. First, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks denied Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital landmark status, and then came the demolition of Richard Neutra’s Gettysburg Cyclorama, and now the future of The Roundhouse, Philadelphia’s Police Headquarters, hangs in the balance. Last week, during his budget address, Mayor Nutter brought to light the city’s plan to renovate the Provident Mutual Life Insurance Building at 4601 Market Street and turn it into the new police headquarters (to be shared with the City Morgue and the Health Center). Nutter said that the move would mean selling the Roundhouse, along with several other municipal buildings. PlanPhilly reported that the city would pay for the renovation of 4601 Market Street with long-term borrowing, but the costs of the project “would be offset by the sale of the three would-be surplus municipal properties.” The Roundhouse—designed by architectural firm, Geddes, Brecher, Qualls, and Cunningham (GBQC)—is constructed of structural pre-cast panels and was awarded the American Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal Award for Best Philadelphia Architecture in 1963. Right now, graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania’s Historic Preservation Graduate Program have teamed up with Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture to come up with different reuse strategies for the Roundhouse. Two graduate students at UPenn, Kimber VanSant and Allee Berger, have launched a campaign, Save the Roundhouse, on Facebook. VanSant and Berger point out that in the Philadelphia City Planning Commission’s “In Progress” Philadelphia 2035 plan for the Franklin Square Neighborhood, the Roundhouse is labeled as “Likely for Redevelopment” or referred to as “Police HQ lot,” which indicates that the Roundhouse building might not factor into the overall redevelopment of the area. Berger and VanSant plan on pursuing landmark status for the building, but fear that with a backlog of nominations waiting for approval at the Philadelphia Historical Commission, time might run out before the city’s development gets underway. The two preservationists are also concerned that city officials have misrepresented the condition of the building. “Through the campaign, we’re trying to make it clear that the building is in excellent shape and a great candidate for reuse,” said VanSant. VanSant and Berger said that the next steps will be centered around public engagement, speaking with developers, and eventually forming a coalition with local preservation and modernism  groups. “This building is a physical vestige of when Philly was really going through some transformative changes in the late 1960s. There were a lot of urban renewal campaigns going on at the time. It was a very pivotal time for the city,” said Berger. “The building is a tour de force of architectural engineering.”
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Neutra’s Gettysburg Cyclorama Demolished

It has been clear since earlier this year that Richard Neutra's Cyclorama Center in Gettysburg, PA was to meet the wrecking ball, but within the last week, bulldozers have officially destroyed the structure, according to Hanover Evening Sun, ending a more-than-three-year battle over what to do with the mid-century building. Originally designed to house Paul Philippoteaux’s 377-foot painting of Pickett’s Charge, the rotunda is being torn down in order to restore the land on which it has resided since the 1960's to it’s historic Civil War state. Bob Kirby, Superintendent of the Gettysburg National Military Park, expects demolition to be completed by late April but major efforts to restore the landmark site will not occur until after July 3rd, the date marking the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.