Residential Design

Vol 1, 2018

A business-to-business magazine focused on the collaborative process and talented work of residential architects and custom homebuilders.

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Page 59 of 71

Neutra's Trickery Barbara Lamprecht, author of "Neutra: The Complete Works," opened her presentation, "How to Stretch Space: Richard Neutra's Strategies for Trickery," with August Schmarsow's 1893 scold to architects, "Why do you wring your hands about which historicist styles to use? Do you not remember that architecture's raison d'être is the body's move- ment through space… [the body] is the 'creatress' of space." She then postulated that, although there is no direct evidence that Neutra knew of Schmarsow's challenge, Neutra may have been the first to embody it in his work. Lamprecht discussed how Neutra was fascinated by the 1874 book "Principles of Physiological Psychology" by Wilhelm Wundt, which concerned sensory systems and the effects of environmental stimuli. A doctor's son, Neutra held a deep interest in life sciences—in evolutionary biology, Gestalt psychology, and cognitive sciences. It would lead him to reject All of Wright's acolytes adopted his goal of merging building and nature, demonstrated here in Neutra's design for the Kaufmann house in Palm Springs. The client, Edgar Kaufmann, commissioned Wright's Falling Water. Cartesian dualism, the separation of mind and body, and to reject any notion of a "man vs. nature" dichotomy. To him, they are part of a single system. Lamprecht stated, "It led Neutra to recognize humans as both plastic and fixed, unique and generic, individual and universal." Neutra was famous for his probing "client interrogations" that blended "the elements of architectural programming, a cross between a medical examination and a psychologic analysis." Lamprecht pointed out that Neutra's interest in the landscape had preceded his coming to America, and that his first employer—the Swiss landscape architect/theorist Gustav Ammann—had sought to "merge man with nature." Neutra's first independent projects were works of landscape architec- ture—a forest cemetery in Luckenwalde, near Berlin, and, in America, the landscape designs for Wright's Barnsdall House, and Schindler's Lovell Beach House and How House. Neutra's 1930 trip to Japan only intensified his concept of merging of building with landscape. All of these elements come together in what Lamprecht called "Neutra's strategies for trickery—of making small spac- es feel gracious and more expansive." She referenced Neutra's 1937 Miller House in Palm Springs, Calif., as an example of using foreshortened spatial functions and tectonic framing de- vices that "borrow" the natural landscape, making the modest 1,164-square-foot house seem as vast as the Palm Springs desert beyond. According to Lamprecht, one needs to understand Neutra's use of the distant horizon line. Although it may have its origins in Wright's notion of the horizontality of the Mid- western prairie, for Neutra, it's more primal. It goes back to our emergence from the forest into the expanse of the African savanna. Yet, there doesn't need to be a distant desert or plain, "it is distance itself that creates the serenity." Lamprecht shared an image of Neutra's "spider leg" post-and-beam design in his 1966 Ebelin Bucerius House in Navegna, Switzerland, and showed how it framed the distant ridgeline of the Alps, seemingly bringing it closer and making it part of the experience of the house itself. Lamprecht empha- sized that such "trickery" is not to be thought of as a "fake" experience. "To Neutra, this is how we are hard-wired, both physically and psychologically. These spatial devices create a very real sense of the body in space, and the occupants feel fully present in the landscape." The Raymonds and the Place of Personality William Whitaker's closing presentation, "In this Room: The Raymonds and the Place of Personality," brought the sympo- sium literally home. Whitaker spoke briefly of the Raymonds' relationship to Wright as they were assisting in the completion of the Imperial Hotel, citing Noémi's peacock mural drawing, prominently displayed at the Oshima-curated room at MoMA's Wright at 150 exhibit. Whitaker emphasized Noémi's encour- aging Antonin to make a clean break from Wright's "rigid style" as they were planning their Reinanzaka House. They had started design shortly after they had lost their Japanese-style home in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923—the same quake that made the Imperial Hotel famous for its survival. Set on the high hill known as the Reinanzaka, in the Shinagawa ward of Tokyo, the new house was not only to be their home/studio, but a showcase for their forward design thinking and Antonin's expertise in earthquake-resilient and fireproof concrete construction. However, Whitaker noted that the house also showed distinctly Japanese features—placement directly on the edge of the street, a compact garden court, and, rather than Photo: Courtesy John DeFazio/CRAN 60 RESIDENTIALDESIGNMAGA ZINE.COM VOL. 1, 2018 AIA CRAN

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