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21 January 2016

Meet the Friends - Raymond Neutra

Raymond Neutra was influenced by his father Richard Neutra’s concern with physiology and design, pursuing a research career in environmental medicine and epidemiology. Before retiring, he was Chief of the Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control of the California Department of Public Health, and he sees environmental design and public health as closely linked. He is an Ambassador and Friend of Iconic Houses.

Tell us about your relationship with significant houses
I grew up in the 1932 Neutra VDL (Van der Leeuw) Studio and Residences, a multi-family experimental live-work space in Los Angeles, California. I have been helping Cal Poly Pomona College of Environmental Design, which now owns it, in its restoration work and programming.

Do you have a favourite house?
Of all of the early modern houses, it seems to me that Neutra VDL Studio and Residences and Chareau and Bijvoet’s Maison de Verre have the most in common, in the way that they have been assembled, their refinement, and the interest they display in night-time illumination.

What kind of house do you live in, and what appeals to you most about your home?
Although I own a Neutra-designed triplex (where the historian Thomas Hines has lived for many years), I live in a very undistinguished contractor-designed house in the Bay Area.

What made you decide to become a Friend of Iconic Houses?
The 20th century made it possible for people of modest means to hire an architect to lavish great creativity on their home, without either the conspicuous consumption of space, expensive materials or costly craftsmanship. It is important to preserve the variety of approaches in this modern tradition.

What role do you think Iconic Houses should play?
Being a public health physician, I am concerned about the future and what the thinking of the early 20th-century has to teach us about sustainability on planet Earth. I would like each house to include an explication of lessons for the future.

Which 2Oth-century house in the USA should become an Iconic House, and why?
I think Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1939 Hanna House, owned by Stanford University isn’t yet part of the network, but should be. It’s a particularly interesting example of the work of the guy who started it all.

What are you working on now?
I have been working on the documentation to make Neutra VDL Studio and Residences a national historic landmark, since it is one of the places where California modern was born. I see my father’s work, and those who trained with him, in creating California modern as one manifestation of Wright’s early linear version of the Prairie School. After World War II and through the well-publicised Case Study Program, it had wide influence in Europe and South America.

What’s next for you?
I have been interviewing elderly former collaborators and clients of my father, and I am building a website (neutrahistory.org) with essays on the social history of Neutra VDL Studio and Residences, the core family, renters, collaborators, clients, and people who came to dinner - or dropped in uninvited.

Are you also passionate about significant homes and do you find Iconic Houses interesting and useful? You can support our work by donating and becoming a Friend of Iconic Houses! You'll become part of a growing international community of architecture lovers with a special interest in 20th-century residential masterpieces. Further information can be found HERE.

Watch Raymond Neutra’s lecture on Richard Neutra’s VDL Studio and Residences (given in 2013 at the Van Schijndel House in Utrecht).

In Made in LA: The House of Neutra, interior designer and writer David Netto takes a tour of VDL Studio and Residences for T: The New York Times Style Magazine.

From left: Raymond Neutra, Sarah Lorenzen, Leo Marmol and Chris Shanley, all of whom have worked on the restoration at Neutra VDL.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1939 Hanna House in Stanford, photo Raymond Neutra.

The 1932 Neutra VDL (Van der Leeuw) Studio and Residences.

Maison de Verre, 1932 Pierre Chareau and Bernard Bijvoet in Paris

Publication date 21 January 2016