Dion Neutra, at the end of his life documented some of the challenges in the design and construction of treetops:
In 1966, Lot 13, was acquired alongside Lot 12, the Reunion House, from my parents. I seem to recall the deal going through at around 38K for the two. Lot 13 stood as vacant sentinel to a private street, connecting multiple elevated lots above. Aside from a massive eucalyptus at the top, there was a lone apricot tree in the middle.
Around the early 70s when a lull in our work prompted some studies on potential uses for this rare R2 site. What was the maximum development I could possibly get permitted here? That included a pool, spa and two rental units of maximum density. However, it was the loss of a commission for the Thousand Oaks City Library in 1978 that rekindled the project’s momentum. The quest for engagement led me back to the speculative plans for Lot 13, and later to Treetops. A permit was urgently pulled just before a new energy code took effect. During plan check the city noticed a suite designed to service the for the pool area with a bath and shower purposed as a lanai room for hosting pool parties. City regulations hampered its inclusion on the belief that it could be leased out as a separate unit forcing its usages to be absorbed by its adjacent spaces. These adjustments brought challenges and an unbalanced home design. Obtaining financing proved difficult as the bank deemed the project ‘un-feasible’, and problems finding contractors to bid delayed progress. Without a contractor willing to take the bid at 150k, I engaged a supervisor, Fred, to guide the project through and overcome what would become a continuous set of challenges and mishaps. From the initial difficulty of pouring foundation on the steep site, engineering the pool as a cantilever as not to disrupt the root system of the existing trees, to the improvised cladding system consisting of 4’ long sections of shingle siding as work around the impossibility of plastering the building due to the traffic on the driveway from the lots above, Tree Tops was ad hoc amidst a meager budget.
Over the years, Treetops evolved, a blend of triumphs and setbacks, as the lives of tenants, from lawyers to accountants, blended into the narrative of its place. The eucalyptus, once a living symbol of triumph, eventually met its end, as did other aging trees on the property. Just feels like entropy is determined to take its toll here, as a metaphor for my life in my waning years, perhaps.
Los Angeles Area
Under Institute Stewardship