Richard Josef Neutra (1892 – 1970) Austrian American architect and designer

Richard Neutra
Richard Neutra

Prominent and modernist architect

Richard Josef Neutra (1892 – 1970) was an Austrian American artist and designer. He was born in Vienna and lived in Los Angeles and southern California for much of his life.

Education

He studied at the Technische Hochschule, Vienna, until 1917.

Biography

While working for the Municipal Building Office in Luckenwalde (Germany), Neutra met Erich Mendelsohn and went to work for him in Berlin. He moved to the United States in 1923 and worked at numerous architecture firms.

In 1924, he met Louis Sullivan in Chicago; in 1924, Frank Lloyd Wright; and, in 1924, he worked alternately at Holabird and Roche in Chicago and for Wright in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

  • Not realized in 1929: Sketch by Richard Neutra for the Lovell Health House.
  • Boomerang chair (1942) by Richard Neutrar

Neutra functioned as a translator for Erich Mendelsohn when he visited Wright in Wisconsin in 1924.

Between 1925 and 1930, Neutra lived and worked in Los Angeles at the home of Austrian architect Rudolph Schindler.

Neutra worked alone in Los Angeles from 1930 to 1939 and then with his son Dion from 1949 to 1958.

Beginning in 1949, Neutra started working with Robert Alexander on several significant contracts. Neutra mostly created residences in the International Style, with basic, albeit eccentric, site-specific furniture, including chromium-plated tubular furniture, grouped in broad open spaces. Wagner and Loos had an effect on his clean, beautiful structures. With broad fenestration, they blurred the line between indoor and external spaces. He often imitated Wright’s use of built-in furniture modules to create open interior spaces.

Lovell Health House by Richard Neutra
Lovell Health House by Richard Neutra

Commissions

  • Neutra is best known for the Lovell House in 1929 and the Nesbitt House in 1942, both in Los Angeles. 
  • His other buildings were the League of Nations’ 1927 competition entry (with Rudolph Schindler); 
  • 1932 VDL Research House in Los Angeles; 
  • 1935 Josef von Sternberg house in Northridge, California; 
  • 1937 Strathmore Apartments in Los Angeles; 
  • 1927 Landfair Apartments in Los Angeles; 
  • 1938 Schiff house in Los Angeles; 
  • 1942—44 Channel Heights Housing in San Pedro, California; 
  • 1947 Kauffmann house in Los Angeles; 
  • 1942—44 Channel Heights Housing in San Pedro, California; 
  • 1942—44 Channel Heights Housing in San Pedro His site-specific furniture included the 1929 Cantilever Chair in tubular steel for the Lovell house, 
  • a low-backed bentwood model for the 1942 Branch house, and a high-backed bentwood model for the 1947 Tremaine house; 
  • the 1940 Camel Table with wooden legs for the Sidney Kahn house, and 
  • the 1951 revised version with metal legs for the Sidney Kahn house, and the 1950 Camel Table with wooden legs for the Sidney Kahn house.

He was a foreign member of UAM and a prolific writer (Union des Artistes Modernes).

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

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