Neutra In Roatan, The Island Dream

Architect Dion Neutra has led the Neutra firm for the last half of its illustrious nine decades of service. Dion’s work and unique experience serve to further secure the Neutra legacy; Richard Neutra is revered the world over as one of the most influential architects of our time.

Dion’s son, Nick Neutra, is in the process of building a multi-structure complex on the Honduran island of Roatan. Dion and Nick formed the team to conceptualize the project starting in 2007. This cooperative effort represents a milestone in a tradition of creative expression.

A feature-length documentary is being proposed that will chronicle this recent chapter in the Neutra story: the tenth island project of the Neutra practice. Dion is concurrently producing a book, The Island Projects of the Neutra Practice.

The Roatan project will be the central element around which the storyline will evolve. The film will explore three generations of father-son relationships, going back to the first Neutra island project, The Windshield House, Fisher’s Island, in 1936. The narrative will focus on the universal challenges and rewards of the creative process.

The current collaboration between Nick and Dion presents a unique opportunity to enhance the Neutra legacy. With funding secured, this film will further document and preserve that history for generations to come.

For more information and to support these projects,

Roberto Burle Marx’s only US example

In response to a NY Times article about Marx:

In the mid 50s our office designed a large residence in Havana. Through dad’s contacts, we somehow attracted Marx to offer a landscape design for that project.

In 1955, we were working on the LA Headquarters building for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union. Dad convinced Marx that this would be a great opportunity for him to show his mural talents for LA. We have a picture of Marx putting the finishing touches on that piece;. the only live example of this man’s work in the US! It would appear that the paint was applied directly to the plastered surface, as opposed to a canvas being adhered.

Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America - Roberto Burle Marx

We have tried repeatedly to make contact with the current owner, who has avoided us; who knows why, but we suspect he does not want to know about this treasure in his midst for fear of the responsibility this might reveal. We’ve reported this to the Mural Program of the City, but no one seems to have an idea how and under what authority something might be done here.

First, of course, it would seem, an experienced archeologist should scrape the white painted surface to see if signs can be found of this art work underneath. But what if it’s true; what to do next? It is not practical to remove this wall with the plastered surface intact, I would say, altho with enough funding anything is possible. But what to do with it if and when? I don’t think this owner would want to be bothered, even if funding were found for a restoration.

Neutra Lofts in Los Angeles – A Recent Phenomenon

Neutra Loft

The loft phenomenon is one of the most interesting movements in contemporary life style and architecture. Its goal is to design domestic spaces in structures originally constructed for industrial uses.

Following our firm’s philosophy, we attempt to design a special category of lofts, hoping the client does not make a mistake when buying and reconstructing these spaces. Based on Bauhaus considerations and our International Style principles, we continue to apply biorealism and transform this important concept into biometabolic: the conversion of structures into practical elements of circulation zones and personal activity.

In addition, we apply the defined aspects of realness: presence, significance, materiality and emptiness (For An Architecture of Reality, Michael Benedikt, Lumen Books, 1987).

A building with presence is not apologetic, but asserts itself as architecture, having a right to be there, to take up its position as a new entity in the physical world. An object or building with presence has a shine, a sensuousness, a symmetry to it. It waits for our return. In Neutra lofts, these conditions are met by paying attention to circulation access zones and built in open spaces with contours and edges.

Significant buildings, real buildings, are achieved rather than provided. They are built over time by someone rather than arriving all but ready-made by strangers. Thus, we should not be surprised that most important lofts, and how often anonymous buildings, are provided by government and corporations, usually neglected, vandalized, or just suffered and ignored.

Materiality derives from the speed, economy and formal freedom with which walls and ceilings can be made. Be aware of ‘fake’ materials that suggest solidity and consistency of material throughout the piece. Most plastic veneers are doubly fake; they disguise not only the lack of correspondence between surface and interior, but also the nature of the material in the first place, like a decoy. In Adolf Loos’ essays, we found some practical principles: look for the thickness of the veneer, the hollowness of the gypsum-board walls, the marvel of formica marble, the freedom and power of paint.

Emptiness has a connotation of silence, clarity and transparency in the clean lines and open spaces, and surely, is the most difficult component of realness. It denotes innocence and intention.

For architecture, emptiness, implies that a building should not be a slave to its program (such as most generic programs of gentrification in Los Angeles), turning to accomodate high-income people, squirming to please affluent people, but rather should be formed according to innate principles of order, structure, shelter. It should be found beautiful and useful, like a tree. They seem ‘better’ than anything we could design from scratch, and that is why, increasingly, we like them.

The Neutra firm invites the exploration of these principles and to stamp our logo and name, our promise is infinite, it is the promise of life.

Design and Vision by Reuben A. McDavid, Associate Creative Director, Neutra Institute for Survival Through Design. 2006. All rights reserved.

12 Qualities and Characteristics of Neutra’s Work

12 Qualities and Characteristics of Neutra’s Work
(From ARCH 322, Great Houses of Los Angeles, Lecturer: Prof. Victor A. Regnier, FAIA, University of Southern California, School of Architecture, 2003.)

1. Modernist Look – (appearance)

  • Flat roof
  • Stucco and glass materials

2. Inside-Outside Relationships

  • Nurtured and developed in many different ways
  • Courtyards, roof tops, sliding glass walls, edge spaces

3. Built-in Furniture

  • Controlling room design and use — beds, cabinets, bookshelves
  • Making it easier to use and clean

4. Use of Industrial/Experimental Materials

  • Lots of types — steel, plywood, diatomaceous materials, commercial type applications, masonite

5. Concern for Human Fit (personal and environmental linkage)

  • Occupant interviews
  • House fits pattern of living — could cause a divorce through “faulty” design

6. Transparency and Reflectivity — (VDL House)

  • View nature from a protected setting
  • Mirrors reflect views of courtyards and the landscape

7. Nature and Landscape

  • Water, plants, edge spaces, trees
  • Minimalist ethic — not just lush landscaping

8. Design with Climate

  • Overhangs, cross ventilation, HVAC works

9. Ribbon Windows (around perimeter)

  • Roof is separated from the wall below

10. Dramatic Stair Connections

  • Between floors – always opened up – aware of where you are going
  • Celebrated as part of the sequence

11. Low Maintenance (ease of living)

  • Easy to clean
  • Taste, imagination, “element of practicality”

12. Minimalist Detailing (simple and elegant)

  • Landscaping
  • Lack of door trim
  • Bases/coves — very simple