Richard Neutra was born in Vienna of wealthy parents, studied at the Vienna University of Technology for eight years and after graduation went on an Italian study tour with his friend Ernst Freud, son of Sigmund Freud. From there, he went to Switzerland to study landscape architecture and married Dione Niedermann, the daughter of a well-known architect. In 1923, they immigrated to the U.S. where he worked for a time for Frank Lloyd Wright, finally settling in the practice of Rudolf Schindler in Los Angeles. His first design projects were in landscape design, but in time he went on to open his own practice where he combined modern-style architecture and his talent for landscapes. He is one of the most significant architects of the mid-century modernists. Twelve of the buildings he designed have achieved recognition as Historic Cultural Monuments. When Neutra turned to design private residences, he was known for creating affordable, functional designs with clean, simple lines and walls of glass.
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When Art and Architecture chose Neutra for their Case Study Project of private residential designs, Neutra built a 2,000-square-foot home in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles on a wooded bluff above Santa Monica Beach. The home was sold to Dr Stuart Bailey, the first of the Case Study Project homes to be sold to an outside client.
It was fortuitous that many years later another man of imagination would buy the Neutra property who would have the finances and vision to restore the house. That was Sam Simon, co-creator of The Simpsons and other mega-hit television productions Taxi and Cheers.
Simon already owned the next-door home when he purchased the Neutra home and immediately engaged master architects and restoration artist Marmol Radziner to preserve and renovate the house, which achieved its Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument status. When Simon’s original home was damaged by fire in 2007, he moved into the Neutra home while a new 7,124-square-foot, four-bedroom, LEED Certified Gold, eco-friendly home was built to replace the fire-damaged home. Positioned to overlook the Bailey Case Study house and the grounds, the large living room was built for entertaining with a theater/bar/gameroom that connects to a stone deck with infinity-edge pool.
Sam Simon’s Pacific Palisades estate, which also contains the Richard Neutra Case Study House #20, is for sale at $18 million.
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The Case Study program organized by Arts & Architecture magazine gave pioneering modernist architects such as Richard Neutra an opportunity to share cutting-edge designs for homes in California and Arizona that would influence decades of designers and builders. But due to differing circumstances, many of these influential midcentury designs were never built, only to exist as concepts, renderings, and blueprints. Archilogic, a firm that creates 3D visualizations for architecture and real estate clients, recently brought one of these unbuilt homes to life, creating a virutal reality simulation of Neutra's Omega House, a family dwelling divided into four courts, and built with a sloping, cruciform-style layout. Originally designed in 1945 for the fictitious Southern California family of Mr. and Mrs. Omega (and their three little Omegas), Case Study Home #6 can now be viewed in a limited form at Arch Daily.
While some of the materials in Neutra's description of the home may be dated ("the exterior shell consists of fire-resistant and integrally finished corrugated asbestos"), the home's sleek profile and integration with the landscape remains contemporary. Meant to harmoniously blend in with surrounding homes, the design was never realized in its day, but The Agency currently offers plans for building both the Omega and Alpha house designs by Neutra, if the virtual walk-through piques any potential homeowners and homebuilders.
Images via Arts & Architecture magazine.
· You Can Build a Brand New Richard Neutra Case Study House [Curbed LA]
· Mapped: The Case Study Houses That Made Los Angeles a Modernist Mecca [Curbed]
· Richard Neutra archive [Curbed]