The AIA|LA Fall Home Tour presents, Barton Phelps in, "Resuscitating Neutra in Birdland…"

Last Updated: October 11, 2012

The AIA|LA Fall Home Tour presents, Barton Phelps in, "Resuscitating Neutra in Birdland…"

Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, CA, USA

The AIA|LA Fall Home Tour presents, Barton Phelps in, "Resuscitating Neutra in Birdland..."

Read how Barton Phelps of Barton Phelps & Associates, searched for R.J. Neutra in a home that looked like, "an upscale, Beverly-Hills-in-the-80's version of the Hollywood Regency.

The Levitch House*


Resuscitating Neutra in Birdland

Nestled in a quiet Hollywood Hills neighborhood where streets are all named for birds, this modest mid-century house assumes a deep, palpable privacy as it cuts into its steeply banked cul-de-sac lot. Designed by Richard Neutra for a retired couple and expanded thoughtfully by second owners, it had been remodeled by a third owner with what can only be termed a vengeance.

It was difficult not to notice how intently that last owner had been bent on undoing any trace of the diagonal axes that gave the original plan its lively phenomenal spin, a typically Wrightian maneuver that Neutra - perhaps Wright's best pupil - frequently depended upon to activate his otherwise rather static residential compositions. Everything she'd added - closets, cabinets, shelving - was placed symmetrically, filling every open corner and stopping the whole thing dead in its tracks. Not even RJN's signature open-sided fireplace escaped asymmetrically. Newly walled in on its open side, its red, wire-cut brick plastered over, and its front finished off with a phony French Baroque cast stone chimney piece, it looked like an upscale, Beverly Hills-in-the-80's version of Hollywood Regency.

Our client, an art collector of minimalist predilection, asked for a remodeled master suite and kitchen as below grade laundry, work, and storage spaces. But most of all he wanted Neutra back, and we, though less admiring of the master, found what had transpired to be sufficiently insulting to architectural thought that we agreed to search for him aggressively. After studying original working drawings, we predicted that excavation of the fireplace would reveal an asymmetrical firebox with corner pipe column of stainless steel. Sure enough, the pipe emerged but (as we should have guessed) instead of solid stainless steel it was ordinary iron pipe wrapped in stainless sheet metal - a reminder of Neutra's penchant for cutting material costs and still getting most of what he was after. In the study / guest bedroom, our use of cantilevered steel and butt glazing produces a corner window more dramatically minimal and diagonally axial than anything RJN could have hoped for.

*originally, The Hughes House, R. J. Neutra, Architect, 1958


AIA|LA Fall 2012 Home Tour, sponsored by Gruen Associates

For more information and a list of the homes click here!

October 28th from 11 am - 4 pm, sponsored by Gruen Associates.

click to purchase Oct 28 Tour Tickets

Last updated: 09-Dec-2012 08:30 AM
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