The Institute

“SURVIVAL THROUGH DESIGN, to ameliorate by the fast-advancing insights of all sciences, the human setting in which to live, to work, to rest” — Richard J. Neutra (1892-1970)

Neutra Institute for Survival Through Design logoThe Neutra Institute for Survival Through Design is a non-profit California corporation, established in 1962. Its name is derived from the prophetic book by Richard J. Neutra, one of the architectural greats of the Twentieth Century. The Institute’s activities depend on grants and donations, which are tax deductible. Its work is the expansion, implementation, and memorialization of the basic Neutra theme.

This Institute differs from others with academic orientation in its close affinity to the “practical.” Founded by admirers of the “Neutra oeuvre,” it was determined that close liaison with practical practice activity, as opposed to “Ivory Castle Academia,” should undergird this Institute’s inspiration and raw material for research and development.

The Institute draws from the day-to-day experiences and observations of an ongoing architectural and planning practice of three-quarters of a century — Richard and Dion Neutra, Architects and Associates of Los Angeles. It welcomes the participation and similar inputs from other like-minded practicing planning professionals.

The Neutras sounded the environmental alarm in the 1950s many years before ecology, Green architecture, and Sustainable Design became buzz words for politicians and recently concerned organizations. The Institute is fortunate to have the interest and talents of Dion Neutra, son and partner of the late Richard J. Neutra, to act as Executive Consultant and Project Director for the Institute. As far back as he can remember, his father was warning that “today’s man-made environment has become an irritating, increasing threat to the vitality and soundness of mind and body.”

The Neutras have observed that planners are frequently unaware of the advances made by science and researchers in diverse fields in areas that could affect “healthy environment,” and therefore “they continue to house man without fully understanding or fully respecting his biological necessities.”

Survival Through Design is not a “catchy” title. It is literal truth, using the word “Design” in its broadest sense. Man must re-discover the relationship he once had with nature. He must honor a new generation of priorities. “Otherwise, we are headed for ecological and personal disaster,” warns Dion Neutra.

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Aims and Purposes

Biorealism is the Neutra term chosen by the Institute to represent the firm’s ideal of the “person-centered” approach to the planning of the environment and the managing of ecology in ways that will be of lasting benefit to individuals comprising mankind. The projects of the Institute are all conceived with a biorealistic approach to serve or activate people under one or more of the following objectives:

1. Communication

To facilitate communication between planning professionals and project owners, within their fields as well as with scientists and others engaged in research or activities bearing on the relationship between man and his environment.

2. Research

To stimulate interdisciplinary research in the environmental sciences and the planning professions, in cooperation with private institutions and government agencies. Included is research into the planning process itself, with a view toward increasing effectiveness and long-term concern with impacts on the global environment.

3. Application

To encourage application of the newest scientific advances, methods, and concepts, as well as research in the environmental area, to actual planning projects. Concern for man’s increasing treasure of accumulated experience, its storage, and how it may be made broadly available and usable to those engaged in the planning process.

4. Consumer Education

To make the consumer more discerning, the voter better informed, the public more aware of and involved with issues pertaining to the design of the built environment, to expand the role of educators in these areas, to communicate and indoctrinate youth.

5. Preservation

To preserve remaining authentic examples of the work of Richard and Dion Neutra architecture c.1926 through today as a manifestation of the philosophy of the Institute; for scholars; and to preserve the cultural heritage.

This statement of “Aims and Purposes” has remained largely unchanged over
the half century since the founding of the Institute. During the Centennial
celebration of Richard Neutra’s birth in 1992, Dion, with the help of interested “Neutra fans,” launched an effort to address the potential of the computer and related technologies to serve the interests of these objectives.

It may be that Dion’s “second-generation” effort using the computer — as anticipated by Richard Neutra in Survival Through Design — will finally allow application of these design concepts enunciated so long ago. Hopefully we will now begin to see concrete examples of them coming to fruition in the service of humankind.

Another area of increasing interest has led to the addition of the above Aim 5. There is a need for the study of strategies for preservation of the remaining Neutra oeuvre. Too many of these works are threatened or have already been lost. At this rate, there will be precious few authentic examples remaining as the 21st century unfolds.

The Institute is dedicated to these objectives and is actively seeking assistance, financial and otherwise, from individuals and organizations who will join in the struggle for Survival Through Design.

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