Richard Neutra wrote ‘Man loves to immigrate to the south, or to conquer it.’ Interesting encapsulation of one aspect of the European/American desire — probably best explored through his own words, and not a celebratory book of his work.
Another of the few personal insights to be found here: when he met Frank Lloyd Wright at Louis Sullivan’s funeral in Chicago, he said ‘It was like coming into the presence of a unicorn’.
I lived in L.A. forever and never really knew who Neutra was, an opportunity missed.
This is a good introductory description of his work (incomplete, of course, as he was still at work during its writing), a good introduction to what works about his style, why it was so innovative and the spaces he created so beautiful, flowing almost without break from inside to outside. I prefer roundness and more organic materials, but I still love these houses. Almost unexpectedly, as so many talentless hacks have taken his squares and glass and reproduced them cheaply and ad infinitem.
There are, of course, a couple of cringeworthy moments (yet really, when will I be able to stop saying ‘of course’ when it comes to white professionals and their attitudes towards race, poverty and housing?). The brief discussion of his design for the ‘Negro and Mexican housing’ for one. All the politics of Chavez Ravine ignored in the presentation of his plans for the original housing to be developed there by the Housing Authority (but much as I know about that, I had forgotten it was Neutra had designed it… still, they never even say the words Chavez Ravine, only Elysian Park), and a celebration of urban renewal in the demolition of a ‘slum’ to be replaced by Neutra designed parking. Even that it’s Neutra-designed doesn’t reconcile me.
Still, I love how this has set me thinking about space and how we inhabit it. His designs for Rush City I find rather chilling, a vast city of modernist skyscrapers, yet part of me wishes it had actually been built just to see how something like that would work.
But I expect it wouldn’t.