Seventy-five years ago, in Los Angeles, with a no-interest loan from Dutch philanthropist Dr CH Van Der Leeuw, Viennese-American architect Richard Neutra, rightly called ‘second only to Frank Lloyd Wright’, built a radical “glass house” with rooftop and balcony gardens on Silverlake Boulevard.
This is the place where Neutra had designed hundreds of projects over the four continents among which are some of the finest schools, public buildings and distinguished residences. So many architects were trained here and whose careers started in this office/studio.
Neutra’s residence played host to cultural figures like Frank Lloyd Wright, Lazlo Moholy Nagy, Jorn Utson, Charles and Ray Eames; religious figures like Robert Schuler and J Krishnamurti; scientists like Rene Dubos and Linus Pauling; and to political figures and activists like John Anson Ford, Frank Wilkinson and Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
VDL, as Neutra had named his residence, was very dear to him. His ashes were later scattered in the backyard.
Neutra’s wife Dione gave this house to the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona in 1990. The charge when the family donated the house was that principally it would be an educational tool. And in a city where Neutra houses are coveted, it is the only one open to the public. However, the University, Pomona, announced yesterday that it may have to sell Richard Neutra’s residence since it is hard pressed for funds.
To help raise money for repairs and an endowment, the architect’s youngest son, Raymond, is working with the actress Kelly Lynch, who owns a 1959 Neutra house in Lone Pine, Calif. Ms. Lynch, who has contributed $1,000 to the campaign herself, said their goal is to raise $30,000 by October and $1 million by December 2009.
Lynch shares, “We’ll take $5, $10, whatever people feel they can give. We realize this is going to take a whole community to get behind us.”
This residence was designed to accommodate Neutra’s office and two families on a small 60 x 70 foot lot. Seven years later, as his family expanded, he built a garden house on the back of the lot. This compact wing had walls that slid open onto a pocket garden to be shared by the addition and main house.
However, in 1963 after a disastrous fire, that left unscathed only the 1940 Garden house and basement of the original wing, Richard and his son and partner Dion Neutra had a chance to redesign the main house. Two floors and a penthouse solarium were built on the original prefabricated basement structure. They applied what the practice had learned in the interim about sun louvers, water roofs, “nature-near”, and physiologically motivated design.
Read on: Urgent Campaign for Neutra VDL (Cultural Heritage Historic Monument #640): An appeal for preservation maintenance and stewardship.