Richard Neutra | Los Angeles Conservancy

Richard Neutra

Richard Neutra, 1962. Photo by Irving A. Taylor, Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library.

Richard Neutra (1892-1970)

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’s desire to come to America was sparked by the stories of his mentor Adolph Loos and cemented after seeing Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1911 Wasmuth portfolio. 

Neutra worked in Europe for several years and apprenticed with the great Erich Mendelsohn. After years of encouragement by friends including fellow Austrian R. M. Schindler (who had emigrated to the U.S. in 1914), Neutra moved to New York in 1923. He moved on to Chicago, spent several months in Wright’s Taliesin studio in Wisconsin, and arrived in Los Angeles in 1925. His wife Dione and son Dion soon followed.

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.

Unlike Schindler, Neutra was included in the pivotal 1932 MoMA exhibit on Modern architecture, further fueling his career. The same year, Neutra built his own home and studio, the Van der Leeuw (VDL) Research House in Silver Lake. After a fire destroyed the house in 1963, Neutra rebuilt it with son Dion using new ideas and materials.

Neutra experimented constantly. He embraced technology, oddly enough, as a way to connect man with nature. His philosophy of “biorealism” sought to use biological sciences in architecture “so that design exploited, with great sophistication, the realm of the senses and an interconnectedness to nature that he believed fundamental and requisite to human well-being,” as described by architect and Neutra scholar Barbara Lamprecht. 

His prolific career encompassed iconic residences, innovative schools and multi-family housing, civic and commercial projects around the world, and inspiring city and community plans, including an unbuilt plan for affordable housing in Chavez Ravine (now the site of Dodger Stadium). 

Neutra retired from practice in 1968, spending his final years in Europe. He died in Wuppertal, Germany, in 1970. 

Despite its international renown, Neutra’s work has sparked intense preservation battles. An enormous outcry followed the demolition of his 1962 Maslon House in Rancho Mirage, and the Cyclorama Visitor Center at Gettysburg, designed by Neutra with Robert Alexander, was razed in 2013 after years of fierce advocacy. In 2010, the proposed demolition of Neutra’s 1955 Kronish House in Beverly Hills ultimately spurred the City of Beverly Hills to strengthen its preservation policies (which it has since weakened). The work of Richard Neutra continues to inspire design, debate, and devotion. 

Photo by Adrian Scott Fine, LA Conservancy

Kelton Apartments

Completed in 1941 and designed by Richard Neutra for his in-laws, the Kelton Apartments are an early example of the architect's break from pure International Style design.
Photo by Roger Davies

Kronish House

One of only three Richard Neutra designs ever built in Beverly Hills, the Kronish House is reportedly Neutra's largest residential commission in North America.
The Poster Neutra apartments by Richard Neutra
Photo by Larry Underhill

The Poster Neutra

This rare example of multi-family housing designed by Richard Neutra received a Conservancy Preservation Award in 2007.
Photo by Hernan Hernandez

Platform Houses

Oakfield Drive in Sherman Oaks contains seventeen unusual Mid-Century Modern homes known as the Platform Houses, for obvious reasons: they are built on massive platforms that cantilever out over the edge of a steep slope, looking down onto the valley below.
Chuey Residence, as photographed by Julius Shulman. Courtesy of J.Paul Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10)
Eagle Rock Recreation Center
Photo by Tom Davies

Eagle Rock Recreation Center

Before gaining fame for his residential designs, Richard Neutra built a rec center, implementing it with ideas he was still exploring for his house designs
Perkins House
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

Perkins House

A house designed for art history professor Constance Perkins' to reflect her personal living style: art-loving, landscape-focused, creative, and independent.
Photo by Michael Locke

VDL Research House II

An International Style building constructed as Richard Neutra's home and office on the eastern edge of Silver Lake Reservoir and stands the fascinating result of two generations of architectural experimentation.
Photo by Jacek Laskus, ASC

Kun House

The extraordinary commitment of a private owner brought this Neutra home back to its original vision.