Schlagwort-Archive: VDL Research House

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

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