Schlagwort-Archive: Californian Architecture

William Krisel, Ocean Ave. Towers, 1972, 201 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica

Ocean Ave. Towers, View from Ocean Ave.

The Ocean Ave. Towers met all my expectations. The L-shaped high-rise twin condominium is easily to identify from the Santa Monica coastline. If you get closer to the building it really possesses a specific atmosphere of a huge block. It nearly looks like a massive cuboid which opens in the middle due to the connecting wing and the outreaching terrace on which the pool is placed on. The weald and flat environment of the building additionally leads to a monumental effect. The tilt angle of the ground on which it’s built is excitingly perceptible from the street at the backside of the building (to be seen on the first post). Also exciting are the falling lines of the building that exaggerate the tension of capturing the building.

Detail of the corner of the building

Fine details are hidden in the arrangement of the facade. The corners of the building are windowless and due to its angle and incline, each floor benefits from a similar view – either of the sea or of the vegetation of the hills. The cover panels between the apartments ensure more privacy. It seems that even though the buildings are l-shaped and positioned to each other, that the specific angle and the additional cover panels prevent the view from one apartment into another. Furthermore, an interesting observation of the facade composition were the string courses which separate each floor horizontal. They nearly enclose the whole building, even its windowless corners of the building. The only interruptions ensue at the corner pillars of the backside and outer side of the building where presumably the staircase is located.

Detail of the opaque structure

At this point the light grid pattern of the building is dominated by the vertical proceeding opaque facade structure of the staircase, that includes small rectangular windows. All in all the whole facade is structured into a strong but minimalist grid pattern, that is formed by the horizontal containment of the string courses and the vertical formation of the continuous walls.

Detail of the grid pattern

The embedded window panels are additionally punctuated with filigree white frames, that repeat the grid pattern of the building. The perception of movement was in that case unexpectedly exciting. The building is invested with spatial niches, that lead into shiftings.

In the perception these subtleties create an discreet accent, which is unfortunately too discreet. By regarding the whole condominium-complex these details don’t obtain enough validity. Our impression is dominated by the massiveness and repetitive pattern of the building.

Detail of the niches and shiftings

That’s why I can sadly retrace the fact that the building is highly featured on commercial websites for real estate agencies. If I didn’t know that this condominium-complex was built by William J. Krisel, I would have guessed that it’s part of a hotel chain or something similar. It really has a commercial touch, with its reproducible, basic signature look. Its environment and location feels exchangeable and anonymous. These impressions even more indurated as I walked into the lobby of the building. It possesses a reception with concierges. The lobby is quite spacious with a marble floor and warm lights. From outside the white facade cladding has a cheap look, it looks like some kind of synthetic material. These impressions lead to the perception of no overwhelming atmosphere, despite those interesting approaches for which you should step further towards the building.

All pictures taken by the author.

Begüm Inal

Richard Neutra, VDL Research House I / II, 1932/1966, 2300 Silver Lake Blvd, Los Angeles

Thrilled finally to examine the VDL Research House by perceiving it through movement and intensify the theoretically acquired information by our own experience, we ran into a big disappointment. Due Spring Break, the house was closed. Currently the VDL House is supervised by students of the Cal Poly Pomona College of Environmental Design and unfortunately we weren’t informed in spite of reservation, that just at that weekend as spring break began, we would stand in front of closed doors.

VDL Research House, View from Silver Lake Blvd.

The environment of the VDL House is a quite silent neighbourhood at the famed Silver Lake. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting such an impressive piece of architecture in such an inconspicuous street. Hidden between houses with tall fences and green bushes and trees, the VDL House guardedly appears with its narrow entrance.
Adorned by many bushes, dainty banana trees, huge palm trees and several aloe veras to count a few, the entrance resembles an oasis compiling examples of the typical Californian flora.

Landfair Apartments by Richard Neutra, view of the yard

In contrast to Neutra’s Landfair Apartments, which are currently used as a student housing, I was glad to see that the VDL Research House was in a much better condition than other works of famous architecture. Other famous buildings  which aren’t privately owned were in similarily as badly conserved as the Landfair Apartments. The window frames in particular seem to fall apart because of their neglected wooden structure. In general, very distinct conditions of preservation could be observed, depending if the architectures were in private or public ownership.

The first part of the construction that caught my eye were the vertical shades in metallic optic, which react to the sunlight. The shades adapt to the falling sunlight and move autonomously. They reach out from the ground to the roof of the building.

Detail of the vertical sunshades

The Facade of the VDL House can be structured into three areas: the high shades, the entrance area and the window facade.

Detail of the entrance

The glass panels of the window facade are embraced by wooden frames in a brownish steel optic. A quite interesting part of the house is the balcony right above the entrance. It seems as if the balcony was open-ended on its left side. In combination with the shattered glasspanels it creates an illusionist effect where the differentiation of inside and outside becomes blurry.  If you take a look at the photographs it is not clear where the line between the inside and outside of the house intersects, so the limit becomes indistinct.


Detail of the balcony

A beautiful detail is hidden in the crossing roof elements. The concluding wood ceiling joists don’t end up in clean edges, they form fine crossing structures that provides a lightness to the building. A more dramatic look the ceiling might get at night time due to the discreet light slates and light spots which are embedded inside of the ceilings joists.

Detail of the crossing ceiling joists

The crossing element can also be found internally. During our visit at the Getty Research Center we were lucky to be supervised by some former students who worked at the VDL House. They told us some exciting aspects, like the continuation of the crossing elements in the inside of the house. They also told us that Neutra had tried to rebuild the original VDL House after the fire, as an homage to the original structure, but unfortunately there were new rights which didn’t allow him to construct it 1:1. That’s why he was urged to make some differences in the declaration, called the guest house as a garage e.g.. An added element are the steel pillars which ground the house. It’s the only structure of the house where he could used steel. This element has a similarity to his piano in the inside the house which he had transported originally from Austria and which also stands on steel feet.

Detail of the rooftop

At our meeting with the architecture class of the Pomona College we gained further information about the perception of the inside of the building. The inside of the building is sensually perceived as quite cool and continues with the play of the visual unclearness between the tension of outside and inside. Neutra also included natural phenomenons into the structure of the house. For example there’s a small pond on the roof of the building, which awakes the impression of an infinity pool.

I’m still disappointed about the fact, that we couldn’t experience the building ourselves, and also the fact that I have nearly no further leading information about the guest house. But I’m grateful to have met such interesting persons with the same passion for architecture in special for the VDL House and Richard Neutra Architecture. Particularly to have had the chance to exchange our thoughts and information about the VDL House, including their subjective impressions about the house which are really precious to me.

Detail of the facade

To sum up the comparison between the impressions we had before we saw and gained additional information about house and after, the main difference lies in the atmosphere of the house. I hadn’t had any feeling for the dimension and effect of the house until I stood in front of it. It’s discreetly enclosed by the breath taking Californian flora with which it is in perfect harmony. If you take a step further and stay right on the small gateway of the entrance it plays with the opposites of lightness and mightiness. The house possesses a strong occurrence which is underlined by its interest-stimulating fine details. It automatically leads to questions like ‚how do the shades work?‘, ‚are the frames made of steel or wood?‘, ‚how can this dominant building look so light and open?‘ and takes your time while you try to clarify those points. Unfortunately, pictures aren’t enough to relive these precious experiences.

All pictures taken by the author.

Begüm Inal

John Lautner, Silvertop, 1957, 2138 Micheltorena St; Richard Neutra, Neutra Colony, 1948-1961, Silver Lake Blvd, Neutra Place, Earl St; Rudolf M. Schindler, Droste House, 1940, 2025 Kenilworth Ave, Los Angeles, CA

Upon our arrival at Silver Lake, right after we had parked our cars in front of Neutra’s Van Der Leeuw (VDL) house, we wandered across a lawned recreational area right by the reservoirs shore. To our surprise the water level appeared to be extremely low. We later learned from one of the residents that due to an effort by the municipality the lake was emptied. The home owners of Silver Lake neighbourhood had successfully fought the city on the resolution. The reservoir is now planned to be refilled by summertime in 2017. This is only possible thanks to the end of a seven-year long drought in California.

After observing many runners, picnickers, young families with toddlers roaming about the lake’s pathways we started out on our own adventure around their neighbourhood. Walking along Silver Lake Boulevard we turned unto Glendale Boulevard heading toward Neutra’s former office building. By the large sign up front, today, it appears to house the Neutra Institute Museum of Silver Lake.

Neutra Institute, Museum of Silver Lake, photo by the author

From street level just one storey is visible but as we wondered down the driveway along side the building it revealed two levels on the back. In Neutra fashion it is a flat top roof house dominated by rectangular forms. Long, horizontal window strips as well as sun shields decorate the sides and the back. The building was poorly maintained.

As our group continued on Glendale Boulevard we then turned on to Earl Street. Walking downhill Neutra Place came up on our left side. The cul-de-sac revealed several homes designed between the years of 1948 and 1961. Returning to Earl Street we then continued to discover the second part of the Neutra Colony on Silver Lake Boulevard.

Overall, the homes seemed well taken care of, appeared to provide every owner with individual housing design and secluded living space. In conversation, most of us concluded the houses to be similar to each other in the overall design theme. Nonetheless every home featured a different structural set up. Placement of stairways, doors and window fronts helped differentiate.

Neutra Colony on Silver Lake Boulevard, photo by the author

After a quick lunch break our group decided to meander through the West side of Silver Lake hoping to catch a closer glimpse of John Lautner’s Silvertop (1957) as well as Rudolf M. Schindler’s Droste House (1940). As we ascended Kenilworth Avenue the Droste House made an appearance as the road took a turn. Gazing at the architectural sight from street level suddenly the very friendly couple owning and living in the home opened the door and welcomed us in. Excited, we followed their invitation. As they guided us through their well cared for home our group marvelled at the many details Schindler added to the design: invisible storage space, air circulation strategy, window placements et al. All of us were very appreciative of the family’s openness to share about their experience of living in and owning a Schindler designed home.

Droste House living room, photo by the author

Upon our drive leaving the neighbourhood we managed to view Lautner’s Silvertop from the distance. The shiny, curved structure clearly stood out among all the homes on Silver Lake’s West Side.

Strolling through Silver Lake left me with a furthered understanding of the neighbourhoods quality. Neutra’s, Schindler’s, Lautner’s, among many other renown architects’, homes are situated within Los Angeles’ urban context and their individual design is powerful because of it. Having previous to our visit only viewed photos and read about Silver Lake this experience led me to comprehend its and the architects‘ home architecture.

Talitha Breidenstein

William Krisel, Ocean Ave. Towers, 1972, 201 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica

My research on the Ocean Towers turned out to be an unexpectedly exciting experience. As usual I began with a research in our university library – unfortunately with no satisfying result. The next step was a inquiry in established magazine search engines – again with no satisfying result. So I was forced to continue my research in a common search engine – Surprisingly, I was confronted with countless results which redirected me to real estate agency pages. I did not expect to come across the architecture of a famous architect in a highly popular region like Santa Monica, still to take place in an advertising/commercial context. This kind of represantation leads to questions: Why is this building is mainly featured in commercial-oriented settings or does the architecture possess a lack of quality to be represented autonomously in the literature? Perhaps the architect himself did not wanted to give priority to the building.

Ocean Ave. Towers, view from the 1st Ct, photograph by author

The literature on Krisel does not represent or analyse the Ocean Ave. Towers architecture as an independent work. It is mostly mentioned as a comparison to other buildings without any deeper information concerning the Towers themselves.[1] The Ocean Avenue Towers were designed as luxurious residential apartment buildings under the partnership of Krisel/Shapiro & Associates in 1971.[2] The towers consist of two identical steeples which were built symmetrically to each other and an attached building, which serves as a connection between the two Towers. The high-rise condominium is quite untypical for the horizontal orientated area of Los Angeles. Marketed on real estate pages as the tallest residential building in Santa Monica[3] with a total height of 160 ft, the Ocean Ave. Towers contain 17 floors.[4] Located on an elevation right in front of the beach of Santa Monica, the Towers benefit from a gorgeous view which is used as an advertising preference.[5]

Author: Begüm Inal


[1]Creighton, Heidi/Menrad, Chris, William Krisel’s Palm Springs. The Language of Modernism, Layton 2016, p. 135

[2]Creighton/Chris 2016, p. 32

[3] (7.3.2017)

[4] (7.3.2017)

[5]William Krisel, Architect. R.: Jake Gorst. USA 2010. TC: 01:09:43 – 01:12:10

Richard Neutra, VDL Research House I / II, 1932/1966, 2300 Silver Lake Blvd, Los Angeles

Located in proximity of the popular Silver Lake, the house benefits from a tranquil and nature-bound location inside the city. [1]
The VDL house is named after Richard Neutra’s Dutch benefactor, Dr. Van der Leeuw. At the same time, the building is an embodiment of the architectural perception of his architect. The architectural concept combines living with working space in one building serving as the residence and office of Austrian-born architect.

Richard and Dion Neutra VDL Research House II, 2300 Silver Lake Blvd. Silver Lake

VDL House, via Wikimedia Commons

The VDL Research House (I) was the first architecture which Neutra conceived after his return from Europe in 1931 [2]. European influences are obvious: Neutra, who had worked for the Austrian Werkbund in Vienna the same year, was strongly inspired by the Dutch industrial architecture of Brinkman & Van der Flugt. The two architects of the Rotterdam Van Nelle Fabriek had been employed by the Van der Leeuw-family [3]. Their avant-gardist concept of space permits daylight to flood into the factory building. A continuous filmstrip-like window penetrates the facade and allows the sunlight to brightly illuminate the inner space of the building.

Rotterdam van nelle fabriek

Van Nelle Fabric, via Wikimedia Commons

This parallelism is often interpreted as an honouring gesture of Neutra to C.H. Van der Leeuw who advanced a considerable sum to the architect so that he could build his house. [4] According to certain sources, Van der Leeuw was horrified after visiting Neutra’s former residence in Echo Park. So he pulled out his check-book and wrote down a sum of $3000 as an inducement to build a new, more suitable home. [5] Neutra completed the remaining sum to cover the total costs of $8000. [6] The VDL Studio and Residences (I and II) comprise in fact of three phases of construction: The first original constructing phase of 1932, a second phase of 1939 – 1944 in which a smaller construction the garden or guest house, and the rooftop ’solarium‘ were added. [7] The third (re)construction phase became necessary because of a devastating fire in 1963 which broke out in absence of Richard Neutra. The house burnt down to its foundation. Luckily the construction and soil of the ground floor was made of concrete beams with suspended floor structures which prevented the fire from burning through right into the cellar where the essential archive of Neutra’s work was located. [8]

On a lot of 18 x 21 m, the VDL Research House occupies a space of 214m² spreading over three floors. The H-shaped building consists of two parallel main buildings, a private building and a guest house. As an attachment, a narrow connecting building is placed between them which include a rarely used room and two children bedrooms. The free space between the two main buildings was used as an enclosed patio garden. The ground floor of the private tract was mostly used as an office including rooms for the secretary and employers. The first floor was where the private rooms were located. [9] The bright, former known as ‘solarium’ completes the building with a third floor. Over time it was converted into an ordinary bright room. [10]

A special feature of the building is the use of new materials, for example aluminum, rock wool, solid insulation boards, [11] cork floors, e.g.. They were sponsored and produced according to Neutra’s demands. [12] He also imitated materials: Neutra tried, for example, to evoke the effects of steel construction which was too expensive to afford. He used painted wooden frames instead of steel window frames. The wooden frames were joined continuously like a filmstrip and were fitted with steel windows to achieve the desired visual effect of the modern European steel constructions. Other remarkable features of the house were sliding steel doors saving indoor space. The functional modern European aesthetics was quite uncommon by that time in the U.S. For Neutra, it included theoretical aspects as well. He investigated the aesthetic or sensual effect of the combination and apparition of materials in building. He also meditated or the benefits of architecture for the human-being by involving nature in the planning and realization of architectural landscapes. [13]

Barbara Lamprecht describes the sensual effects of the VDL House as follows: The characteristics and the combination of the used materials, rooms painted in dark and silver tones and the low sill height affect the sensual perception with lustrous moments which evoke a unique so-called ‚honeymoon experience‘. [14]

VDL studio staircase

VDL House, via Wikimedia Commons

Neutra used illusionist elements like mirrors or glass panels to enlarge the space and play with the theoretical contrast pair of inside and outside. [15] He focused on creating an innovative and experimental kind of a residence combined with an office. The architecture should be flexible to adapt to varying circumstances like the changing constellations of the inhabiting families. [16] The interior of the building with its built-in furniture was conceived to be offer a maximum of functionality and to be easily maintained – perhaps another tribute to the Werkbund colonies. A residence which offers his inhabitants such flexibility and function-oriented comfort seems obviously familiar to the 1920’s/1930’s Werkbund and Neues Wohnen movements. Acting in a time with economic and social grievances, politicians and architects began to build small but functional and affordable residences in colonies for the middle and lower class to stop their exclusion from the social and economic system. [17] Neutras articles were also often featured in the journals “Die Form” and “Das Neue Frankfurt”. They delivered information on those modernist movements including topics of architecture and design. Neutra surely applied the modernist aesthetics not only because of his low budget, but also as a proponent of the idea of functionality and flexibility in architecturally enclosed space. [18]

Author: Begüm Inal

[1]Lamprecht, Barbara, Richard Neutra. 1892-1970. Gestaltung für ein besseres Leben, Köln 2016, p. 29

[2]Hines, Thomas S., Architecture of the Sun. Los Angeles Modernism 1900-1970, New York 2010, p. 367

[3]Hines 2010, p. 367

[4]Lamprecht 2016, p. 29

[5]Hines 2010, p. 367

[6]Lamprecht 2016, p. 29

[7] (10.3.2017)

[8]Lamprecht 2016, p. 30f

[9] Lamprecht 2016, p. 29f

[10] (7.3.2017)

[11]Lamprecht 2016, p. 31

[12]Hines 2010, p. 368

[13]Lamprecht 2016, p. 30f

[14]Lamprecht 2016, p. 31

[15]Lamprecht 2016, p.31

[16]Hines 2010, p. 370

[17]Landmann, Ludwig. Zum Geleit, in: Das Neue Frankfurt 1 (1926), p. 1f

[18]Hines 2010, p. 370