Thoughts by Dion Neutra, AIA, FISD on the occasion of the sale of the Neutra office Building.
Review of the old images of this building, of which I was project architect, brings up myriad memories on many levels.
Shortly after its completion in January 1951, my first wife and I moved into the upper rear apartment. I remember my parents outfitting us with some furniture and kitchen supplies to get a start on our new marriage.
At the time the rest of the building was being outfitted for the development of plans primarily for the Chavez Ravine Housing Project, which was what brought Robert Alexander into our lives. Associated engineers were occupying the front office area, and Neutra and Alexander people were drafting in what is now the lower rear apartment. The shot from the neighbor’s site to the South illustrates how under developed the area was The view of the rear garden may have been taken some years later, based on the development of the landscaping.
To commemorate the collaborative nature of the initial occupants, my father came up with the appellation “Planning Professions Building’, and a neon sign with that first appeared on the fascia. [photo]. A plaque naming the architects and engineer occupants soon appeared in the entry area. At some point, the Neutra Foundation also enjoyed a plaque of this type in the entry. During that time this is how the conference room looked.
We were still in residence in spring of 1952, when our first-born was brought home from the hospital. I recall his playpen out on the balcony. We used the Neutra designed dining table while in this apartment.
An interesting parallel between the Neutra office Building and the VDL Research House is that my father encouraged the incorporation of experimental materials. Examples: The front entrance doors; the perforated masonite and wood panels mounted on the slotted tube columns at the rear of the front office; the Acklo Blue heat reducing glass; the sun control louvers, the construction of the partition around the conference room, the unusual finish on the stucco panels at the west end of the South Elevation, to name a few.
During this early period, the famous shot of the front office area was taken. It shows Neutra and Alexander standing on the left between Arthur Parker and Boris Lemos associated engineers with other engineers and draftspersons in the frame. The original ductwork and light supports are clearly visible in this view. At that time there was only hot air heating supplied to the space. Years later two roof mounted A/C units were installed sharing an East-West duct that was placed roughly in the center of this ceiling.
My family left this building in about 1953 when we purchased 2358 Edgewater Terrace for something under $20,000 as I recall it. As this is written, it’s on the market for $899,000! What a difference a half century can make! This was a non-descript Spanish style 1920s vintage house we could find just behind the VDL House.
I spent many hours in the office building during the 50s, finally deciding in 1955, after a serious bout with hepatitis to devote more time to the joint practice than to the residential practice still being conducted in VDL I on Silverlake Blvd. I was simply too split, covering both bases and needed a break.
At the time of the devastating fire of March 1963, a group called ‘Lakeside Architects’ occupied the Neutra office Building. They had taken up residence there after the dissolution of the partnership. It was the natural place to relocate the Neutra Practice in the aftermath of the fire. I arranged to add partitions to form a private office for myself just behind the corrugated plastic wall at the entry. That was my office for some time until the late 90s when I decided to finally relocate the practice to my home studio on Neutra Place.
In the years since, a number of tenants have occupied the front office space as well as both the apartments at the rear. I inherited the building in 1990, upon the death of my mother.
Along the line, I realized I would have to empty the building of the incredible amounts of stored data that had accumulated. In October 1998, I arranged to transfer most of this to UCLA. Shortly thereafter, as a part of the divorce from my second wife, I moved back to my old apartment space in the building renting furniture to support this. I was there until the early 90s when my ex-wife finally vacated our house, the Reunion House in the Neutra colony and I could return there.
At some point during the history of the building, sun control louvers were added along the south elevation, and after several of the large plates were broken on the East front, I determined to add the transom bars on the front lites utilizing Solar Bronze reflective glass in the upper lites for sun control, and reducing the cost of replacement should lites be broken again. During that time vertical blinds and roll down shades were added for solar control. Aside from some color adjustments, these were the last major changes to occur in the design.
Since this is the last example of the firm’s commercial work, which survives virtually as designed, I am determined to try to find a steward to take over from me and preserve it for posterity.
DION NEUTRA, architect AIA, Fellow, and Executive Consultant of the Neutra Institute.