Sleep in a Modernist Gem – Huis Billiet in Bruges
Exclusive Tour and Film Screening Package
Announcing IH City Icons: Amsterdam
Winy Wants a World Wonder
Iconic Houses in The Netherlands - 100 Years Van Zessen House
The Last House Designed by Adolf Loos Will Be Built in Prague
Icons of the Czech Avantgarde
Icon for Sale - Casa Legorreta
Rietveld Day: 200 Enthusiasts Explored 3 Utrecht Icons
Hurray! 10 Years Iconic Houses
7th International Iconic Houses Conference A Huge Success
Screenings 7 and 22 Oct. - Pioneers of the Dutch Modern House
Meet Conference Co-Chair Iveta Černá
Meet Conference Co-Chair Maria Szadkowska
Eighteen Iconic Houses Under One Roof
17 June - 'Pioneers-film' Screening Amersfoort
Iconic Houses in The Netherlands - Van Eesteren House Museum
Welcome Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky Zentrum in Vienna!
Welcome Vila Volman! Jewel of Czech Functionalism
Movie Night: Adolf Loos- Revolutionary Among Architects
'Inside Iconic Houses' Case Study House #26 Webcast in Webshop
Inside Iconic Houses at Taut’s Home in Berlin
Rediscovering Forgotten Loos Interiors in Pilsen
'Inside Iconic Houses' - Online Tour Program
Iconic Houses in The Netherlands - The Diagoon House
Iconic Houses in The Netherlands - Rietveld Schröder House
Rietveld Houses Owners Association
Corberó Space: New Life for Hidden Jewel
Iconic Houses in The Netherlands - Pierre Cuypers' House and Workshops
Reeuwijk Celebrates Completion of Restoration Rietveld Homes!
Iconic Houses in The Netherlands - Van Doesburg Rinsema House
Welcome Rietveld's Van Daalen House!
Architect Harry Gessner Passed Away at 97
Watch Pioneers of the Dutch Modern House Now On Demand
Icon Saved: Dorchester Drive House
Welcome Umbrella House!
Iconic Houses in the Netherlands – Berlage’s Masterpiece
Welcome Atelier Volten!
SPECIAL – Iconic Dreams - Sleep in an Iconic House!
SPECIAL - Vacances en France!
SPECIAL - Casas Icónicas en España!
SPECIAL – German Greats!
SPECIAL – Dutch Delights!
SPECIAL – Northern (High)Lights!
Iconic Houses in The Netherlands - Het Schip
Inside Iconic Houses - Tour of Maison Cazenave
Inside Iconic Houses Tours Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Miami
Casa Masó Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary
Inside Iconic Houses tours Roland Reisley's Usonian Frank Lloyd Wright House
Rietveld’s Experimental Housing in Reeuwijk Saved
Serralves Villa after restoration
Portraits of the Architect - Interview with Gennaro Postiglione
Test Labs for New Ideas - Interview with Natascha Drabbe
Inside Iconic Houses - Isokon Building
Inside Iconic Houses - 16 December: Sunnylands with Janice Lyle
BCN-BXL Coderch-De Koninck - Beyond Time
New Chairman Architect Nanne de Ru on The Perfect Platform
Health and Home - Interview with Beatriz Colomina
A Life Less Ordinary – Interview with Valentijn Carbo
Invisible Women - Interview with Alice T. Friedman
Winy Maas on the Green Dip
Anita Blom on Experimental Housing of the 1970s
Women’s Worlds - Interview with Natalie Dubois
The Culture of Living - Interview with Robert von der Nahmer
Hetty Berens: A Fresh Take on Modernism
Niek Smit on Supporting Modern Heritage
Alice Roegholt on Amsterdam’s Working-Class Palaces
July is Iconic Houses Month
Hans van Heeswijk on The Pioneers of the Dutch Modern House
Wessel de Jonge on Dutch Icons at Risk
Save Maison Zilveli - Sign the Petition!
How a Building Tells a Story - Recorded Event
Toolkit for Owners of a Modern House
13 Aalto Sites Nominated for UNESCO World Heritage
Villa Beer At Risk - Sign the Petition!
Business Cards of Stone, Timber and Concrete in the Brussels Region 1830-1970
Exhibiting & Visiting Modernist Monuments
Fostering Well-Researched Responsible Design
ICONS AT RISK
Enjoy a virtual visit to the California House and a Q&A with architect Peter Gluck
Exhibition 'Modernism and Refuge'
A Hidden Gem of Postmodernism
New Centre for Historic Houses of India
An Online Chronicle of the Douglas House
Villa Henny, geometric style icon in The Netherlands
A Mendini temple in Amsterdam
IH-lectures USA & Canada Feb 2020 on Melnikov House
Sponsors and Friends
An Afternoon with the Glucks
Chandler McCoy on Making Modern Houses Sustainable
Catherine Croft: Getting Away from the Demolition Mentality in the UK
Patrick Weber on Discovering an Unknown Icon
Fiona Fisher on Iconic Interiors
Jocelyn Bouraly on Villa Cavrois
Mireia Massagué on finding success through a new kind of partnership
Danish Moderns – Looking Back at Our Mini-Seminar
Venturo house complements Exhibition Centre WeeGee’s offering
Lecture report: Remembering Richard Neutra
Hôtel Mezzara and the Guimard Museum project
We welcome 13 new members!
BREAKING NEWS: 8 Wright Sites Inscribed on Unesco World Heritage List!
LECTURE 29 August - Raymond Neutra: My Father and Frank Lloyd Wright
SPECIAL – Iconic Artist Residencies
Our Badge of Honour
SPECIAL – Women & Iconic Houses
SPECIAL – Iconic Housing
Iconic Houses End Year Message
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Kohlberg House Restoration in Progress
Planned Demolition of Rietveld Homes in Reeuwijk
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An Iconic Saga
Restoring Eileen Gray’s Villa E-1027 and Clarifying the Controversies
Modernism on the East Coast
Iconic Houses in Latin America
House Tours May 2018
Natascha Drabbe - Iconic Houses: The Next Chapter
Terence Riley -KEYNOTE SPEAKER- on Philip Johnson
New era for Villa E-1027 and Cap Moderne
Hilary Lewis on Philip Johnson and his Glass House
John Arbuckle on Great House Tours
William D. Earls on the Harvard Five in New Canaan
Stover Jenkins on Working for Philip Johnson
Frederick Noyes on his Father’s House
Scott Fellows and Craig Bassam on their Passion for Preservation
Jorge Liernur -KEYNOTE SPEAKER- on Latin American Modernism(s)
Fabio Grementieri on Modernism in Argentina
Catalina Corcuera Cabezut on Casa Luis Barragán
Renato Anelli on Lina Bo Bardi’s Casa de Vidro
Tim McClimon on Corporate Preservation
Amanda Nelson on Building Donor Relationships
John Bacon on Planned Giving
Jean-Paul Warmoes on the Art of Fundraising in America
Chandler McCoy on Why Less is More
Katherine Malone-France on Moving with the Times
Anne Mette Rahbæk on Philanthropic Investments and Preservation
Peter McMahon on Saving Modern Houses on Cape Cod
Toshiko Kinoshita on Japanese Modern Heritage Houses
Roland Reisley on Life in a Frank Lloyd Wright House
5th Iconic Houses Conference May 2018
Kristin Stone, Pasadena Tour Company
Restoring the past: The Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Home Studio
Behind the Scenes: Hendrick de Keyser Association
Crosby Doe, Architecture for Sale
Latin America Special – Focus on Mexico
De Stijl in Drachten
Preserving the Nancarrow House-Studio
Meet the Friends - Nanne de Ru
Latin America Special – Focus on Brazil
Jan de Jong’s House is Latest Hendrick de Keyser Acquisition
Stay in a Belgian Modernist Masterpiece
In Berlin’s Modernist Network
Rietveld-Schröder House Celebrates De Stijl Anniversary
Meet Our New Foundation Board Members
Maintaining Aalto's Studio – Linoleum Conservation
Virtual Tour of a Papaverhof Home in 3D
Getty Grant for Villa E-1027
Plečnik House in Ljubljana
Iconic Houses: A Bohemian Road Trip
Work in Progress: Capricho de Gaudí
11 Le Corbusier Homes now on Unesco World Heritage List
At home with Le Corbusier
Henry van de Velde’s Study in Haus Hohe Pappeln Restored
Lynda Waggoner reports
A Conference to Remember
4th International Iconic Houses Conference
Guest of Honor - Harry Gesner
Fallingwater: European Lecture Tour
Wright Plus 2016 Walk
Susan Macdonald, Getty Conservation Institute
John Mcllwee, Garcia House
Meet the Friends – Elisabeth Tostrup
Iconic Houses: The Story So Far
Willie van Burgsteden, designer Iconic Houses
Buff Kavelman, Philanthropic Advisor
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Sheridan Burke, GML Heritage
Meet the Friends - Raymond Neutra
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Franklin Vagnone and Deborah Ryan, Museum Anarchists
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Toshiko Mori, architect
Malachi Connolly, Cape Cod Modern House Trust
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Speaking Volumes: Building the Iconic Houses Library
Sarah Lorenzen, Neutra VDL Studio and Residences
Ted Bosley, Gamble House
Keeping It Modern - Getty Conservation Grants
Meet the Friends - Thomas Schönauer
Wim de Wit, Stanford University
Linda Dishman, Los Angeles Conservancy
Jesse Lattig, Pasadena Heritage
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Natascha Drabbe, Iconic Houses Foundation
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Jordi Tresserras, UNESCO Network ‘Culture, tourism and development’
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Fernando Alvarez Prozorovich, La Ricarda
Tim Benton, Professor of Art History (Emeritus)
Susana Landrove, Docomomo Spain
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City-ordered rebuild of landmark house stirs debate: Appropriate or overreach?
The San Francisco Planning Commission’s recent ruling that a property owner must rebuild a 1936 house that was illegally demolished has set off a debate between those who say the punishment fits the offense and others who call it a Disneyesque response that the original architect would have hated.
The Largent House at 49 Hopkins St. in Twin Peaks was designed by modernist architect Richard Neutra and was illegally demolished last year. Photo: Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle
The now demolished Largent House at 49 Hopkins Ave. on Twin Peaks, as captured in 2014 by Google Street View.Photo: Google Street View 2014
Google street view of the Largent House designed by Richard Neutra at 49 Hopkins Avenue from 2017.Photo: Screenshot / Google
On Thursday, the commission rejected a proposed 4,000-square-foot house on a Twin Peaks site that for more than 80 years was home to one of five structures that famed modernist architect Richard Neutra designed in San Francisco. Instead, the commission ordered the property owner to build a replica that echoes the “footprint, massing, method and materials” of the original house.
The move, unprecedented in San Francisco, was heralded by Neutra’s 92-year-old son and former partner, architect Dion Neutra, who said that he would love to see the house rebuilt according to the original plans and operated as a publicly accessible cultural center. Dion Neutra said that news of what had happened at the planning commission provoked an avalanche of response among those who care about modernism and his father’s work; he received more than 50 emails about the vote.
“I wish we had a planning commission here in L.A. that had the guts to do what the planning commission in San Francisco did,” he said. “I take my hat off to them.”
The controversial decision comes more than a year after the two-story redwood and concrete block house at 49 Hopkins Ave., known as the Largent House, was almost entirely torn down during a remodel that was supposed to preserve the majority of the first floor. After receiving a notice of violation for the unpermitted demolition, the property owner, a limited liability company controlled by investor Ross Johnston, submitted an application to construct a house three times the size of the one that was torn down.
Johnston’s attorney argued during the commission hearing that the historic integrity of the Neutra house had been erased gradually over the past 50 years, first in a fire in the 1960s and later in a series of remodels. Attorney Justin Zucker blamed the general contractor for the teardown, saying the construction crew decided the house was structurally unsound. “We acknowledge and apologize for the fact that a small portion of the work exceeded the scope in the approved plans,” Zucker told the commission, adding that the decision was made “for life-safety reasons.”
Zucker did not return calls seeking comment on Monday. Johnston could not be reached.
Experts questioned whether the city has the authority to order that a property owner re-create an 80-year-old house. Also unclear is whether the architectural plans are available and how much they would have to be altered to comply with current building codes. And then there is the cost: Johnston paid $1.7 million for the property, and it’s unlikely that he would agree to invest more money in a project that wouldn’t meet his family’s needs.
“Can this be backed up legally? We have no idea,” said Barbara Lamprecht, an architectural historian who wrote three books on Neutra. “If it is constructed, what would happen if a subsequent owner wants to change or alter the plan? What are the (California Environmental Quality Act) implications? There are all kinds of questions floating around.”
Plans for the Largent House are likely in storage at UCLA, where the Richard and Dion Neutra papers are located, Lamprecht said.
“I was shocked, as were many of us, because by any measure it’s a very dramatic gesture,” she said of the commission’s decision. “Neutra buildings are well-built and robustly built, but they are exceptionally fragile because people demolish them overnight.”
Architect and architecture historian Jonathan Pearlman called the decision a “petty and political move that serves no purpose.” Pearlman, a friend of the Neutra family, said that the modernist architect with a cult-like following would have been “appalled” by the commission’s insistence that the house be recreated.
“His approach to design was extremely client-focused, producing his unique and masterful homes that reflect both his own vision married to the direct needs and desires of his client and to the natural environment of the site,” said Pearlman. “To rebuild this house, designed specifically for the Largents over 80 years ago, to represent a current political issue hardly seems like something Neutra would endorse.”
Instead, Pearlman said the property owner should have been hit with a substantial fine, which would then be put into a historic preservation fund, similar to the punishment the city settled on in the 2004 expansion of the Westfield San Francisco Centre mall. In that case the developer was fined $2.5 million after razing a 65-foot facade that was supposed to be preserved.
“The 2019 version of a significantly remodeled house, originally designed by one of the greatest 20th century architects, is certainly not a way to address this problem,” he said.
San Francisco law allows the city to punish property owners guilty of illegal demolitions by restricting any development on the site for five years, according to land use attorney Brett Gladstone, who has been practicing in San Francisco for 30 years. But Gladstone said the commission has rarely done that, and he has never seen it order a property owner to rebuild exactly a house that had been removed.
“The devil is in the details,” he said. “Whether it’s defendable in court depends on how the city writes up its decision.”
The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards, a federal guideline for historic preservation, stipulates that the reconstruction of lost historic buildings should take into “consideration the economic and technical feasibility of each project” and whether such reconstruction is essential to the public understanding of the property. The reconstruction should be in cases where “documentary and physical evidence is available to permit accurate reconstruction with minimal conjecture.”
Miltiades Mandros, an architect and the leading expert on Neutra’s 20 Northern California projects, said what happened in Twin Peaks is happening all over the state, where “the dirt is worth more than the house ever was.” He said he understands the contention that a reproduction is inauthentic but that “it establishes a track record and a great precedent for the next time this comes along.” The Largent House is one of five Neutra did in San Francisco.
“It was a cool little building, and I am just saddened it’s gone,” he said.
Dion Neutra said one-third of the houses built by his father’s firm have been destroyed. If the Largent House is reconstructed, he would like to help out. “We would be happy to work on restoring this home,” he said.
J.K. Dineen is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.
This article appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on 18 December 2018.