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Richard Neutra

Richard Neutra (1892-1970) helped develop the style of California Modern and was an immense influence on American designers like Charles and Ray Eames who even lived for a time in one of his Case Study apartments. He worked with an incredible sensitivity towards melding the interior and exterior of a space such that it would "place man in relationship with nature; that's where he developed and where he feels most at home." This philosophy grew out of his feeling that, "our environment is often chaotic, irritating, inhibitive and disorienting. It is not generally designed at all, but amounts to a cacophonous, visually discordant accretion of accidental events, sometimes euphemized as 'urban development' and 'economic progress.'"

Born in Vienna, Neutra went to school at the Technical University there, studying under Adolf Loos. Loos taught him about the burgeoning American style and Neutra was inspired in particular by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1919, after fighting in World War I, he and his new wife moved to Germany and he worked with architect and designer Erich Mendelsohn. Neutra immigrated to the US in 1923, landing first in Chicago and Wisconsin where he worked briefly with Frank Lloyd Wright, before settling down in Los Angeles in 1925. He started out working with his colleague and fellow Austrian Rudolph Schindler, but established his own architecture and design practice in 1926. His son, Dion Neutra, revealed in a 1998 article that Neutra would often start work in bed in the morning, sometimes carrying out meetings where "his one concession to convention was to put on a tie over his night shirt when receiving visitors." Neutra had obviously found a style that worked for him and in 1929 designed the now classic Lovell Health House in Los Angeles. A cantilever design built into the side of a hill, the house was customized for the client Dr. Lovell who requested outdoor sleeping porches and a flat lower area for exercise equipment. It is executed in white concrete and stucco with an open, flowing space and an expanse of windows. The house is such a representative symbol of the style that it has been used as part of the set for several period movies as an immediate identifier of the era.

Neutra is also known for his 1946 Kaufmann house as well as for his participation in the early Case Study House Programs. His 1952 Moore House in Ojai, California achieved an innovative stylistic balance between domicile and environment. The house, positioned in the middle of the desert, needed a reserve of water for emergency irrigation or fire. Neutra designed a reflecting pool for the water storage, building the house so that it seemed to float on the pond like an oasis. He was given an award for this design by the AIA in the 1950s. Another interesting project was his 1961 Gettysburg Cyclorama Center. To exhibit the enormous cyclorama painting of the Battle of Gettysburg, Neutra designed an elevated circular space unbroken by doors or walls.

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