Homes designed by Neutra combined Bauhaus modernism with Southern California building traditions. They were were dramatic, flat-surfaced industrialized-looking buildings placed into a carefully arranged landscape. Constructed with steel, glass, and reinforced concrete, they were typically finished in stucco.
Neutra designed the Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, California, in 1947, and it still stands as a prime example of modernist architecture.
The house was commissioned by Edgar Kaufmann, a department-store tycoon, who had hired Frank Lloyd Wright to build Fallingwater in Pennsylvania the decade before. After Kaufmann died in 1955, his Palm Springs house stood vacant for several years, but later had a series of famous owners including Barry Manilow.
The house was made famous by photographs taken by Julius Shulman (who will be featured in a post dedicated to his work in the future) such as these:
In 1992 it was purchased by Brent and Beth Harris for $1.5 million and they spent another $5 million painstakingly restoring the home to its original design. Neutra had died in 1970 and the original plans were unavailable, so the Harrises looked through the Neutra archives at UCLA and Columbia University and studied original, never-published photographs of the home’s interior taken by Shulman.
The couple divorced, however, and the home was sold at auction by Christie’s as part of a high-profile sale of contemporary art. Its auction at Christie’s in 2007 made international headlines. The auction house expected it to sell for upwards of $25 million, but in the end an anonymous bidder scooped it up for a cool $19 million.
According to Christie’s: Neutra’s Kaufmann House is one of the most important examples of modernist residential architecture in the Americas and remains singular as the most important example of mid-century modernist architecture in the Americas to remain in private hands. It sold for $16,841,000 - and the buyer exercised an option to buy the orchard, taking the total for the house to $19,025,000.
The Lovell House (1927-1929) created a sensation in architectural circles in both Europe and America. Stylistically, this important early work was similar to the work of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe in Europe.
Later in his career, Neutra designed a series of elegant pavilion-style homes composed of layered horizontal planes. With extensive porches and patios, the homes appeared to merge with the surrounding landscape. The Kaufmann Desert House (1946-1947) and the Tremaine House (1947-48) are important examples of Neutra's pavilion houses.
Neutra's Tremaine House