Neutra Architecture Tours:
Highlights, Transcripts, On-Line Resources
Available Tours in Los Angeles
Called 'The Colony' are a number of Neutra designs on and around Neutra
Place; you can view these from the outside by touring off Earl Street
between Silverlake Blvd. and Glendale Blvd. Thomas Guide p. 594 E-5.
You can also click here for 'Directions'
to get there.
Richard and Dion Neutra VDL House II: 2300 Silverlake Blvd. Open most Saturdays only 11-3. VDL Phone: (323) 953-0224, or VDL House Website
Our former offices, at 2379 Glendale Blvd. [a couple of blocks from the VDL House]. You can visit the building most any time, and view it from the inside during regular office hours. Contact: Winnie Khoo for more information.
Neutra Homes on the
Market: Recent Listings and Sales
If you know of any Neutra homes on the market, please let us know (e-mail
Dion Neutra at firstname.lastname@example.org).
To purchase our most recent compilation of Neutra buildings,
New Life' Open House at VDL/Richard Neutra Anniversary
The VDL Research House II (2300 Silverlake Blvd., Los Angeles), designed
in 1966 by architects Richard and Dion Neutra, was donated to California
Polytechnic University, Pomona, in the late 1970s under a life estate
for Mrs. Dione Neutra. In honor of this gift, Cal Poly Pomona University
announced the first in a series of open houses in 2000, celebrating
a NEW LIFE for the Richard and Dion Neutra VDL House.
The first open house was held on Sunday, April 16, 2000, the 30th anniversary
of Richard Neutra's death. Four hundred people from all over attended
this event. Special guest Dion Neutra, son of Richard and architect
of VDL II, conducted a touching remembrance of
his father, followed by the introduction of honored guests. The
group then discussed ways to continue an outreach program for the community
to assist in raising funds for immediate restoration and repair of this
historic building, designated.
In addition to being designated Cultural Monument #640 by the City
of Los Angeles, the VDL House was listed by the World Monuments Watch
as one of the 100 Most Endangered World Monuments in 2000. It was one
of only five sites in the U.S. and the only one west of the Mississippi.
The youngest of all the projects listed, the VDL joined such prestigious
projects as the Valley of the Kings; Macchu Pichu; Beauvais Cathedral;
and the oldest of the group, the Giraffe Rock Art Site in Niger, of
the 6th Century BC.
After a disastrous fire in March 1963, the VDL house was rebuilt by
Dion Neutra in consultation with his dad, who was often out of town
during those years. It was completed in 1966, and the elder Neutras
enjoyed living in the newly constituted house until Neutra's death in
1970. His widow continued in residence for yet another 20 years until
her death in 1990. In the years since, Dion has continued to struggle
to actualize the vision his family had when it determined to give this
house in perpetuity to a university.
Funds are needed in the range of $400,000 for the restoration/adaptive
re-use of the house for the purposes contemplated by Cal Poly University.
Ultimately, to fully implement the programs envisioned, an endowment
in the range of $2 million is needed.
Programs would include keeping the house open more regularly to encourage
'drop-in' visitation; conducting University classes on site to teach
the lessons of the house; and making the house available to community
groups, film shoots, and group visitations. A group of photos was also
assembled to celebrate this world-renowned example of Neutra design,
one of the few that illustrates a late collaboration between father
If you have ideas on fundraising or would like to contribute to the
pot, please e-mail us at email@example.com
Hasserick House (1959)
Take an on-line stroll through the Neutra 1959 Hasserick
House, whose extensive Web site features a guided photo tour as
well as floor and site plans.
Lovell Health House (1929)
Los Angeles, CA
Transcript of Dion's Remarks During 1997 Tour
October 26, 1997
Hello everyone! My name is Dion Neutra. Welcome to the Lovell Health
House, now the home of Betty Topper and her family. May I present to
you, Betty Topper! Thanks so much to you, Betty, for allowing us to
tour your home!
Betty has been in residence longer than the original Lovell family,
who were here between 1929 when the house was completed, and the late
1930s when the second owner, Mrs. Edith Bland, took occupancy. She and
her children were here until the late 1940s, when the Goldbergs moved
in. They were here until the end of the 1950s. It was during this time
that one the Institute's vice-presidents played with a Goldberg daughter;
in fact she told me it was in this living room that she got her first
kiss! Charlotte [Ahaus-Gibbs, an officer of the Institute for Survival
Through Design], stand up and take another bow!
Morton Topper also was a friend of the Lovell boys, having played with
them here many times over the years. When he heard of the opportunity
to acquire this house from the Goldberg,s he jumped at the chance. He
and Betty moved in with four of their children in 1960. Their fifth
child, a daughter, was born while they were in residence here in 1964.
They raised their family in these rooms until Mort's death in 1972,
just a couple of years after my dad died. Betty has carried on here
by herself ever since, with varying numbers of kids living in and returning
from outside the nest.
Betty Topper has been the most generous of Neutra owners, allowing
her house to be used for tours, visitations like this, and movie shoots.
A recent example is the film "L.A. Confidential" [in which the
house appears as the home of villian Pierce Patchett].
Close Call for Neutra Centennial
Another example of Betty's generosity was an event we had planned here
as a major event of the Neutra Centennial. It was a black-tie gala that
was to occur on May 2, 1992. Turns out, that was the week the Rodney
King riots started! At the nth hour, my entire support crew of 16 people
from the LA Conservancy announced they were canceling and so should
It was nothing else but a pure MUTINY! Not to be defeated, I checked
with my council person's office and the local police. I was told that
we could proceed as long as guests were homeward bound from a recognized
activity after nightfall.
My problem was that people were counting on this, coming from as far
away as Cambridge, Mass., and were already en route. They could not
be reached even if we wanted to cancel! I had hired a harpist, caterers,
rented tables, cutlery, dinnerware, and had ordered drinks and a van
service. WE WERE COMMITTED! We had to proceed.
I called an ex-wife and my son Nick, who is here, along with some Institute
members and others. Would you all stand up and be recognized? ON THE
DAY OF THE EVENT, I managed to assemble a support group of six people
to do the work originally slated for 16. We played host to about 25
of the originally hoped for 30 paid participants. We all felt secure
up in the mountains above the riots, whose flames we could actually
SEE from up there! It certainly made for a memorable evening. I think
everyone who braved the elements to get up here had a wonderful time.
One of the highlights was that May 2, 1992 was the 97th anniversary
of the birth of the house's patron, Dr. Philip Lovell, so that this
year would be his 102nd! We had as special guest his son Gary, an attorney,
who gave us some reminiscences of his growing up years here. Gary lives
in the famous 'Lovell Beach House' by Rudolph Schindler.
Neutra's History with the House
Going back to the beginning again, I'd like to give you a little history
of how my dad came to design this house.
Remember, he and mom had arrived in L.A. in early 1925. They moved
in with the Schindlers on Kings Road. The idea was that the two would
form a collaboration. They worked together for a time, while Schindler
continued to do several projects he was involved with, including the
Lovell Beach House of that year, and a cabin for the Lovells in the
mountains, which Schindler had also designed.
In 1926, about the time I was conceived, they were working together
on the League of Nations competition for Geneva, which was submitted
late that year -- about the time I was born, in October. There was some
bad feeling when my grandfather arranged for a publication of the work
in Europe, in which Schindler's name was played down or omitted. This
was entirely unbeknownst to my dad, who was genuinely distressed about
it, but the damage had been done.
Shortly afterwards I think there was a failure of the siding material
used on the Mountain Cabin, to where it absorbed moisture and experienced
complete degradation to everyone's consternation. By early 1928, when
Lovell had decided to design an office downtown and this house in Griffith
Park, he was ready for a change of architects. You can imagine how this
went over with Schindler, who was anyway somewhat intimidated by my
dad's greater business sense and PR talents. Dad commenced his work
on these projects while still at Kings Road, but it must have been an
Some of my earliest memories have to do with the sunken lawn garden
at Kings Road, which I can still remember felt 'safe' and 'secure' to
me because of the way one felt 'contained' when rolling around in them
as a toddler!
Another very vivid memory has to do with my dad taking me on an inspection
trip to this house when I was only about three. He was driving his Franklin,
and it overheated on a steep part of Dundee Drive. We had to pull over
so he could raise the hood and inspect the engine. I remember him hoisting
me up so I could see in, too. There were these black shiny tappets rising
up and down and making a clicking sound. This was before 'head covers'
were invented, I guess. You could see the innards of the engine running!
On completion, this house had an incredible 'play' in the LA Times,
partially because of Lovell's involvement as its main weekend columnist.
He was a true precursor of today's 'Integrated Medical Practitioner,'
which in those days was called a 'Naturopath.' He believed in good diet,
exercise, and rest. His charge to the ambitious 35-year-old architect
was, "Design me a house that will enhance by its design the HEALTH
of the inhabitants of this house!" What a GREAT program for an
architect searching for meaning in his work and practice! It really
set the standard by which all our buildings were to be measured for
the next 70 years!
In response, my dad provided outdoor sleeping porches, an exercise
yard and equipment, a swimming pool on this impossible site, basketball
and handball court, etc., along with an emphasis on great amounts of
glass to place inhabitants close to nature. The kitchen was outfitted
with special water purification equipment, and vegetable and fruit juicing
facilities. (See black-and-white
photo from early in the house's history)
And so the house came to be known as the 'Lovell Health House.'
Revolutionary Methods; Wide Acclaim
Why did this house become so famous? Aside from the forwar- looking
design at a time when neighboring houses were being built in Spanish
hacienda style, the construction was remarkable. The site is precipitous;
the access from the street tenuous at best, which made construction
most problematic indeed.
My father, drawing on his experience in working on steel-framed buildings
in Chicago and the research he did in writing his first book, found
out about a new form of depositing concrete through the use of hoses;
it was called 'gunite.' Using this method, he was able to transport
the concrete from the street to the various parts of the site quickly,
rather than by wheelbarrow, which would have been the only other alternative.
On this foundation, he designed a light steel frame that was completely
pre-fabricated and erected in about 40 hours; a modern miracle. Into
this frame he inserted industrial steel windows of standard sizes, so
that the building was largely enclosed in a fraction of the time a 'conventional'
building would have taken and with far less scaffolding, etc. The exterior
stucco was also conveyed into place by the gunite method, something
that had never been done with stucco up to that point, so far as I'm
These revolutionary methods were widely publicized and added to the
almost surreal quality of this building, which evoked images of a spaceship
from another planet that had landed on the hillside of Griffith Park!
Photos of the construction were widely published by the steel and concrete
institutes, and magazines were filled with these images the world over.
My dad's work was dubbed 'the New International Style,' much to his
dismay. He hated these attempts to categorize his work, which was much
more philosophical than stylistic.
This all happened in the summer and fall of 1929. Dad expected his
career would skyrocket with all this attention. Would you believe there
was not ONE new job that came his way as a direct result of all this
activity? It got so bad just after this period that he decided to make
a roun- the-world lecture tour on the basis of all the publicity that
had occurred around the debut of this house! It was to be years later
that he would finally have the chance to build his own house on Silverlake,
completed in 1933.
The layout of the Health House has the bedrooms and study on the entrance
level; the living room, kitchen, and maid's quarters on the next level
down; with the pool and equipment areas below. Off to the side and down
the hill a bit are the garages and extra rooms; quite a carry for the
A final anecdote: In the early 1970s, I was designing the Main Huntington
Beach Library and Cultural Center. Amid all the publicity, I got a letter
from, of all people, Philip Lovell! He had retired with his second wife
to a small cottage near the beach in town. His letter was a real FAN
letter, expressing his admiration for what I was doing for his adopted
city, and remarking that I had inherited 'the talents of your pappy!'
I made a point of visiting them in their house shortly before he died;
it was very touching on both sides.
I'm happy to answer any questions you may have, while we break into
informal discussion, and everyone wanders around on their own. Thank
you all for your attendance and support of the Institute.
©1998 Institute for Survival Through Design (TM).
All Rights Reserved.