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  • Writer's pictureErica Barnett

Architect: Richard Neutra

One of the most influential architects of the twentieth century, Richard Neutra helped define modernism in Southern California and around the world.

Born in Vienna in 1892, Neutra developed an early interest in architecture, particularly the work of Otto Wagner. World War I interrupted his studies at the Vienna University of Technology. He served for three years in the Balkans, returning to Vienna in 1917 to earn his degree.

Neutra worked in Europe for several years and apprenticed with Erich Mendelsohn. After years of encouragement by friends, Neutra moved to New York in 1923. He later moved to Chicago, spent several months in Wright’s Taliesin studio in Wisconsin, and moved to Los Angeles in 1925 with his wife Dione and son Dion.

The Neutras lived with Rudolf and Pauline Schindler at Schindler’s 1921 Kings Road residence. Neutra opened his own practice and soon won his first major commission from one of Schindler’s clients, Philip Lovell. The 1929 Lovell House in Los Feliz was a great achievement in steel-frame construction, with living spaces seemingly floating above the steep hillside.

Neutra experimented constantly. He embraced technology as a way to connect man with nature. His philosophy of “biorealism” sought to use biological sciences in architecture to connect people with nature.

Neutra houses are, more than anything, sites of psychological conditioning. Neutra saw himself as a therapist who could ease the stresses of modern life by increasing clients’ comfort in their homes. He even supplied a certain atmosphere for the young couples with whom he liked to work. Families were asked to fill out questionnaires about their daily routines.

Schools were another target of Neutra’s reformist urge. He disliked traditional layouts that had children sitting in rigid rows in an airless space. Instead, he believed single-story classrooms should open onto patios through sliding doors. In the thirties, L.A. school boards allowed Neutra to design this vision. His Emerson and Corona Avenue schools are still in use today, as are half a dozen other Neutra school buildings

It is evident how focused and dedicated Richard Neutra was to his work. He was truly passionate about what he did and sought to create a work of art with each home. No detail was too small to consider in his homes. In order to create a masterpiece, every detail was thoughtfully designed.


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