Monday, July 7, 2014

A Richard Neutra House - Part 1

Several months ago we met Diann and Steve London at a party for members of a Women's organization to which we both belong.  In the conversation, I mentioned that Hubby is a realtor to which she said, "Oh, you need to sale to my house!"  Hubby's response was, "I would love to, tell me about it."

And she did with so much love and emotion that we knew we must see this house.  After just riding by and seeing it from the outside, I knew I must know more about this unique property.  It reminded me of works done by Frank Lloyd Wright which I had studied many years ago.

Last week Diane gave me a lengthy guided tour along with a history lesson and permission to share it with you.
I must confess that this is one of the most interesting and intriguing while also being one of the most difficult posts I have done so far.

Interesting because of the vast history both past and present in this story.

Intriguing because of the personalities involved in the design and creation of this house.

Difficult because there is an overwhelming amount of fascinating information that make up this whole story.  How do I share it with you without making it a high school research paper?

So, I have decided in order to do it right, I am going to do a series of Monday posts.

Part 1
"The Architect of O'Brien House"
The O'Brien House, located in the South Highlands Historic District of Shreveport, was built in 1950 for Mr. and Mrs. J.C. O'Brien. Their goal at the time was to simplify their lives and enjoy the natural surroundings that northern Louisiana had to offer. After briefly considering Frank Lloyd Wright to design their house, they decided to hire Richard Neutra, known as one of the major California mid-century Modernists.

How Mr. O'Brien came to select Neutra is an interesting story, but that will come later.  First I want you to meet this fascinating man.

Richard Neutra
Richard Neutra, born in Vienna in 1892 to a wealthy Jewish family,
received his earliest architectural inspiration from the Viennese masters Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos. Following service in World War I, he became intrigued by the stories about contemporary architecture in the US and emigrated in 1923.

Neutra worked briefly for Frank Lloyd Wright before accepting an invitation from his close friend and university companion Rudolf Schindler to work and live communally in Schindler's Kings Road House in California.
Schindler's Kings Road House via Architectural Digest
The house became an architectural laboratory: it is the birthplace of the Southern California modernism we celebrate today. Here in the twenties Schindler and Richard Neutra, created a body of work as vital today as it was incomprehensible to the East Coast establishment eighty five years ago.

Neutra’s first work in Los Angeles was in landscape architecture, where he provided the design for the garden of Schindler’s beach house.
In California, he became celebrated for rigorously geometric but airy structures that symbolized a West Coast variation on the mid-century modern residence. 
The Miller House in Palm Springs, CA is an example of Desert Modernism.
This Neutra house was bought and extensively updated to its original design, by Vidal Sassoon in the mid 50's which represented his cutting edge hair styles at the time.
The Staller House in Bel Air, CA is a perfect example of Neutra's goal to incorporate the outside with the inside through the extensive use of strategically placed glass and mirrors.
Perhaps one of the most famous is the Lovell "Health" House in Los Angeles built in 1929
Richard Neutra was famous for the attention he gave to defining the real needs of his clients.  His domestic architecture was a blend of art, landscape and practical comfort.

The novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand was the second owner of the infamous Von Sternberg House in the San Fernando Valley which saw many of that day's movie moguls and stars.  It has now sadly been destroyed.  Yes, that is a moat around the house.
 A photo of young Neutra and Rand at the home was famously captured by Julius Shulman.
Neutra expressed his philosophy about structure and materials most clearly through his exploration of the relationship of space, light, and form.

 Neutra died in Wuppertal, Germany, on April 16, 1970, at the age of 78.

Neutra's son Dion, now 87 years of age, began training with his father at the age of 11, and has continued his father's work.  You will hear more about Dion later in this story.

He also kept the Silver Lake offices designed and built by his father open as "Richard and Dion Neutra Architecture" in Los Angeles. The Neutra Office Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This is a great video detailing this wonderful treasure.
The House of Neutra
Next Monday, I will show you more of the "O'Brien House," so plan to come back and see this one-of-a-kind house in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Link to Part 2
Link to Part 3

I am linking up with
Dwellings - The Heart of Our Home

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