The Neutra Legacy

Interpreting the Intangible Legacy. 

The intangible legacy derives from the values of Richard, Dion and Dione Neutra:

Listening, researching, and encouraging teamwork for steady improvement

To an unusual degree for its time, Neutra’s 1953 book Survival Through Design focused on identifying and researching functional and esthetic human needs. He believed that the built environment should accommodate these needs. The research he summarized in that book focused on neuroscience and environmental psychology. These writings supplemented the Neutras’ enthusiasm for listening. They listened to members of an individual family or to the stakeholders using a school, a church, a library, or a civic building. In this way they could better accommodate those client’s needs. They believed in inter-disciplinary teamwork and that attention to prior successes and failures could lead to steady improvement.

Promoting and developing a climate-sensitive approach to design that benefits humanity and the planet.

Starting in the 1920’s with the Lovell Health House and the indoor/outdoor naturally ventilated Ring Plan School, the Neutra practice, through international lectures and publications, began to promote its ideas. The Neutras showed how they were deploying climate sensitive technology, as well as natural features and landscape, to satisfy human needs. While these solutions were coherent and elegant for their time, they will not be the solutions required in tomorrow’s climatically hostile environment. In addition to a celebration of historic achievements, we propose to interpret the Neutras’ writings and designs as an enduring reminder. The historic work reminds us of the need for socially and ecologically responsible design. This design should be inspired by evidence about what works and why.

Stewardship of The Tangible Legacy

Archival Legacy

The tangible legacy includes correspondence, manuscripts, personal and architectural photographs, travel sketches and architectural drawings and specifications, movies, recorded lectures, discussions, and recordings of musical performances. The Institute has recently changed its policies to make access to these archives easier for students and scholars. The archives are relevant not only to scholarly study of the three people who left them behind: Richard, Dione, and Dion Neutra, but also to their wide network of distinguished friends. They also have value for studying the intellectual history of the Post WWI and WWII era. They provide insight into the lives of creative women like Dione Neutra and other women such as designer, Ray Eames, photographer, Barbara Morgan or historian Mary Beard, all members of this friendly world- wide network. Among the archival documents are designs of projects that are difficult to visit or were destroyed. There are also documents related to conceptually important projects that were published but never built. We are proposing to create virtual reality tours of such projects to be available on the Institute website.

Building Legacy

The tangible legacy includes the nearly three hundred extant Neutra-designed projects, residential and non-residential. The institute has responsibility for three Neutra-designed multi-family buildings which are part of the “Neutra Colony” in the Silver Lake District of Los Angeles. The Institute is determined to demonstrate exemplary stewardship in the restoration, maintenance and programming of these three buildings. The educational programming of the three buildings will be developed considering the context of the nearby Neutra VDL Studio and Residences and the Neutra Colony. Although the Institute is not providing oversight of the three hundred other Neutra-designed buildings, it will provide moral support to preservationists trying to prevent their destruction. It is preparing general guidelines for the preservation of such buildings, webinar case studies of successful preservation, and a platform for owners, architects, contractors, and preservationists to provide each other assistance.