Remarks to the Rotary Pasadena

If you’d like to see the visuals for this presentation you can download a PDF of the slides

How long has Rotary International been around?

The Neutra Practice celebrates 91 years of service to the world community this October, 2017.  Like Rotary, we’ve always seen ourselves as instruments of service. Founded in 1926 by my father Richard Neutra, I’ve presided over things since 1970, when he passed from us at the peak of his carrier at 78.

I’ve been in position now for nearly 50 years; longer now than he was, during his life.

In the late 40s the Housing Authority of Los Angeles announced a Federally funded new program for the construction of 10,000 units of public housing.  Armed with the experience he’d garnered with work on public housing in Texas and San Pedro, Dad was in a position to be selected for the major plum of that program; Elysian Park Heights; a 3300-unit project to be sited in Elysian Park.

Because of the politics it became clear that he’d have to join forces with someone of like experience to be successful. He made a deal with architect Robert Alexander, who’d designed Baldwin Hills Village. Together they presented and prevailed. As the 40s wound down, they set up shop in the garage of the VDL addition facing Edgewater Terrace.

In that space were brought people like Si Eisner, planner, and a few personnel to begin the site analysis and preliminary planning.  As that progressed, it became apparent that it would be ideal if a larger space could be obtained in which to collect more people and expertise to execute this very large and complex project.

Dad undertook to find a site and design a building. A spot a few blocks away was found and the design of what would first be called the ‘Planning Professions Building’ ; later the Neutra Office Building  proceeded apace. By early 1950 it was ready for construction, which was completed by our favorite contractor, Red Marsh, within the span of just a few months.

In short order, we populated this building with staff, now augmented to about 10 to 12 people for Neutra and Alexander, in a rear drafting room, and associated engineers in the front part of the building.  My first wife and I occupied the upstairs apartment during this first 18 months. Our first-born son Greg spent the first six months of his life there.

Because of politics the entire public housing program was aborted by the City of LA. just as our project was being made ready to go to bid. The plug was pulled and we lost the whole thing.  In subsequent years the site was taken over to build Dodger Stadium; a blatant misuse of land that had been obtained by Eminent Domaine for a public purpose!

Having tooled up for greatness, the partnership shopped for other joint work.  Early on, we did city planning studies for Sacramento, Tulsa, the island of Guam. Later design of the US Embassy in Pakistan, Visitor Centers for the National Park Service, and design for buildings on several University campuses, along with Palos Verdes High School. Also several other elementary schools. In the end, design of the LA County Hall of Records in downtown.

All this happened as the 50s wound down, and the building had become known as the Neutra Office Building.  As the partnership came apart in the early 60s, the building was used by an outfit called ‘Lakeside Architects’.

In early 1963, because of a fire at VDL, the Neutra practice was moved overnight to this optional site, and worked there in the front part of the building until the end of the century. In 2000, the project was selected as City monument #640. It was elected to the National Register for Historic Places in 2003.

Many of the later iconic designs associated with the Neutra practice were created in this space over the course of several decades.

I had moved the practice up to my home office studio on Neutra place by the first years of 2000, and began to rent out the front part of the Neutra Office Building and the two rear apartments as such, having inherited the building upon my mother’s death in 1990.

I thought it might be interesting to trace the transition of these usages to a new existence and purpose, the NEUTRA INSTITUTE MUSEUM OF SILVER LAKE.  That was launched in summer of 2014. This is what Dennis thought might be of interest to this audience. Let’s see some images…

We see here a view of how the building looked upon its first completion…

Series of some 30 slides, depicting development of the building over its first half century, culminating in how it looks today as NEUTRA INSTITUTE MUSEUM OF SILVER LAKE both from interior and exterior.

To wind it up, some flyers for current shows and books which have appeared in the past couple of years.