Click on photos to enlarge.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Richard Neutra

J.M. Roberts Residence, Richard Neutra, West Covina, California.
If you've ever dreamed about owning a house in a forest, or better still, a house designed by one of the great masters of architecture from the 20th-century, then now is your chance (assuming you have six-million dollars in your back pocket). American architect, Richard Neutra’s Pitcairn House is a very private, very hidden masterpiece. It is the quintessential house in the woods. The design is breathtaking; living within is comfortable amid the surrounding joy of ten acres of wildlife and nature, yet close to urban civilization. A long driveway leads to the top of a ravine overlooking Pennypack Creek with its dense groves of oak, beech, maple, and poplar, to a site chosen by Neutra himself in 1959. The house, encompassing 6,303 sq. ft., was completed in 1962, near Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania.
The Pitcairn House, 1962, Richard Neutra
Richard Neutra was famous for the personal attention he gave clients, defining their specific needs regardless of the size of the project, as opposed to other architects bent on imposing their individual artistic vision on their clients. Neutra often surprised clients by presenting them with detailed questionnaires to discover their needs. As a result, his domestic architecture was a blend of art, landscape, and practical comfort. The revival in the late 1990s of mid-century modernism has revived the popularity of Neutra's work. Triggering this renewed interest in the architect's most prolific period may well have been the faithful renovation and restoration of his most famous work, the Kaufmann Desert House in Palm Springs, California (below).
In studying the remarkable style and floor plan of the Kaufmann
Desert House, it's hard to believe it dates from 1946.
The Desert House (above) was commissioned by Edgar J. Kaufmann, Sr., a Pittsburgh department store tycoon, as a desert retreat from harsh northern winters. If the Kaufmann name sounds familiar, a decade before, Kaufmann had commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build a woodland hunting lodge which came to be called Fallingwater overhanging a Bear Run waterfall in southern Pennsylvania. Kaufmann died in 1955. The house stood vacant for several years. It then had a series of owners, including singer Barry Manilow and San Diego Chargers owner Eugene V. Klein, during which time it went through several renovations. These renovations enclosed a patio, added floral wallpaper to the bedrooms and removed a wall for the addition of a media room. Worse, the roof lines were altered to accomodate air-conditioning units.
The living room overlooks the pool through a wall of glass, one of the
trademark elements in most of Neutra's houses.
In 1992, the house was purchased by a young couple for $1.5-million. They set about restoring it, rather than renovating. In fact some of the earlier renovations were removed. They went so far as to have a long-closed Utah quarry reopened so as to replace with matching stone what had been removed or damaged. Today, many critics place the Kaufmann Desert House among the most important American houses of the 20th century, comparing it with the likes of Fallingwater, Robie House, Gropius House, and the Gamble House.
The Haus Kemper, Richard Neutra, in Wuppertal (east-central), Germany.
Richard Neutra was born into a wealthy Jewish family in 1892. He grew up in Vienna, Austria, where his family owned a metal foundry. Neutra studied under Adolf Loos at the Vienna University of Technology from 1910 until 1918. He was also a student of Max Fabiani and Karl Mayreder. In 1912 he undertook a study trip to Italy and Balkans with Ernst Ludwig Freud (the son of Sigmund Freud). His studies were interrupted by service in the Austrian army during WW I. After the war, Neutra went to Switzerland where he worked with the landscape architect Gustav Ammann before emigrating to the U.S. in 1923 by way of Palestine and Berlin where he married the daughter of an architect. They raised three children. Their second son, Dion, also became an architect.
Three of Neutra's creative efforts to meet the needs of his clients while working in the then current International Style. It's interesting to note that Neutra's Lovell House, while in many ways similar, came almost ten years before Wright designed Fallingwater.
Once he arrived in the United States, Neutra worked briefly for Frank Lloyd Wright, while becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. Later he moved to the west coast where he first worked as a landscape architect. His first big commission came in 1929 from a Los Angeles doctor, Philip Lovell, who sought a house deep in a wooded area. Neutra's client wanted a psycho-physical form of architecture, functional and modern, yet as mystical as it was rational. The Lovell house is often described as the first steel frame house (bottom) in the United States. It was also an early example of the use of gunite (sprayed-on concrete).
Neutra chairs dating from the 1930s.
As did many architects of this period, in not finding furniture to match their radically modern interiors, Neutra began designing his own. Today we can still buy examples of the architect's distinctively styled chairs (above). Between 1927 and 1969, Neutra designed more than 300 houses in California and elsewhere. In 1949, Time Magazine featured Neutra on its cover, ranking him second only to Frank Lloyd Wright in American architecture. After that, Neutra had all the work he could ever want. In 1965, Neutra formally partnered with his architect, son Dion Neutra, before moving back to Vienna the following year. He died in Germany in 1970 at the age of seventy-eight while in the middle of an argument with a client. In 1977 Neutra was awarded the AIA Gold Medal.
The Lovell House under construction, 1928.

No comments:

Post a Comment