Richard Neutra’s VDL house hosts site-specific designs

Richard Neutra’s VDL House, which was originally built in 1932 and then rebuilt in 1965 after suffering extensive damage in a fire, has been a Los Angeles icon for good reason. Known for its recognizable glass structure, rooftop gardens and balconies, penthouse solarium and reflecting pool, the residence not only housed Neutra and her family, but also her architectural practice.

Since 1990 the house has been under the direction of the College of Environmental Design and the Department of Architecture of Cal Poly Pomona University, in honor of Neutra’s relationship with the institution, and transformed into a house-museum and a platform to cultivate art, architecture, culture and education. It has hosted several exhibitions and installations to explore new ideas in these areas, and is currently under the new curatorial direction of directors Noam Saragosti and Juhee Park, who took the reins at the start of the pandemic.

Richard Neutra’s VDL house

The exterior of Richard Neutra’s VDL house. Misa Chhan’s curtains are visible through the windows; the patterns of the curtains are inspired by the local vernacular wrought iron window gratin

This week, the house presents the first collective exhibition / intervention since the pandemic. Organized with the Marta art and design gallery and artist / writer Erik Benjamins, ‘Built In’ (September 18 – November 07, 2021) presents a collection of new and in situ works by 32 creators in the disciplines of the art, design and architecture that engages with the integrated and historical elements of the legendary house. All specially created for the show, the works, which range from lighting and furniture to curtains, perfume diffusers, cooling systems and ceramics, celebrate the dialogue between past and present while paying poetic homage to the intrinsic structures of the residence.

“When we first visited the VDL house, we were collectively and immediately struck by the integrated furniture elements of the house, which punctuated our visit at all levels,” recalls Benjamins. “Some were more expected – closed storage, built-in seats, wire shelves for books and sample materials – while others were more surprising; sometimes unexpected, sometimes hyper-particular or even idiosyncratic.

“These integrated moments honor Neutra’s intense pursuit of a home’s potential for programmatic use; the daily rhythms of the inhabitants of the house – in this case not only the architect himself, but his family, his employees and his collaborators. ‘

The integrated seating in the living room has been replaced with heated cushions created by Brody Albert. The designer explains: “The gesture is inspired by a Duchampian concept called“ infrathin ”. When asked to define the term, Duchamp replied: “We can only give examples… the warmth of a seat that has just been left is infra-thin. »The coffee table is an Alex Reed reproduction of the Neutra design

“The house is an exemplary work of vernacular Modernist architecture, but the fact that the building was both Neutras’ personal home as well as the site where Richard Neutra led his practice inevitably creates a number of interesting architectural moments, from spatial transitions and specificity of the program within the house, ”adds Heidi Korsavong from Marta.

“Some rooms, for example, can be further defined by sliding partitions that allow a guest, collaborator or apprentice to create a personal space for themselves for a short or long stay, as the famous architect did. of LA Gregory Ain at the beginning of the life of the house.

‘Built in’ by Marta and Erik Benjamins

From left to right, Noam Saragosti, Erik Benjamins, Benjamin Critton and Heidi Korsavong

Benjamins continues: “The participants in ‘Built In’ operate within, alongside and well beyond the design profession: the show welcomes new works of visual artists, designers, architects, writers, olfactory artists, practitioners of food, media artists. The diversity of types of creative work paints a picture of how we guided responses to the show’s brief: softly and openly.

“Of course, thinking about the tangible built-in elements immediately encourages the physical means to respond creatively, but we also wanted to encourage responses that recognized something that we have come to call the ‘built-in element’; a response less concerned with the dimensionality and physicality of these architectural facts, but rather with their spirit, poetry and symbolism. In the end, the common thread that unites this house party with a show is a thoughtful response to the design of the site, to the rhythms, to the history and to the inhabitants (past, present, future).

The exhibit notably only features practitioners based in the Los Angeles area, “because we knew we wanted this personalized introduction to the physicality and history of the house to inform the works of artists and designers,” explains Korsavong. ‘In this way, there are projects that humbly respond to the intangible spirit of the house and the echo of its past inhabitants.’

Home-inspired studio furniture, including chair, table and stools, designed by Fiona Connor. Water fountain ‘Song of Saint James II’ by Charlap Hyman & Herrero

“This has in fact become one of the common points: works that speak less to the author and the original architect of the house, and rather quietly commune with the members of the Neutra family,” concludes Benjamin. Critton, co-founder of Marta. “A sound work by Jeremiah Chiu which occupies the speakers integrated into the ceiling of the house mixes the audio found from Dione Neutra’s voice with field recordings taken in the house. A bench from the architectural firm TOLO pays homage to the Neutral son, Frank, whose severe autism had previously excluded him from several important stories surrounding the house.

“The site of the VDL house in the context of its neighborhood has also proven to be fertile territory for several contributing artists: a fountain by Charlap Hyman & Herrero activates the intrinsic water characteristics of the house and dialogues with the Silver reservoir. Adjacent lake, simultaneously drowning the sounds of nearby traffic with the white noise of the steady trickle of water. “Integrated” expands the definitions or parameters of the architectural and historical significance of the house, opening up the readability of the site itself. »§


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