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Name   Schindler House
     
Architects   SCHINDLER, RUDOLPH M.
     
Date   1922
     
Address   833 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood, USA
     
School   MODERNISM
     
Floor Plan   1 acre (0.40 ha)
     
Description    
   

Modern architecture might have taken a number of different roads - like de Klerk’s in Amsterdam — that were later abandoned when the Movement settled for the Teenage Uniform of the International Style. If there is one architect who explored all these roads (or more than anybody else, at least) it was Rudolph Schindler, domestic architect extraordinary in California. He was one of a fairly close connection (Eric Mendelsohn, Richard Neutra) who were attracted to the US by their admiration for Frank Lloyd Wright. Schindler, who worked briefly for Wright, was one of those who decided to stay and invited his fellow. Viennese, Neutra to join him in Los Angeles. Neutra was always a fairly straight, though immensely skilful, practitioner of the International Style and his famous Health House is one of the monuments by which the style is now defined. Schindler too practised the International Style, but as one of a dozen or so well or ill-defined alternatives borrowed or invented by himself. This variability has bothered historians, who have tended to fasten enthusiastically on the house he built at Newport Beach for the same client as Neutra built the Health House — enthusiastically because itis an astonishingly early yet rich and inventive example of the International Style, fully to be compared with Rietveld’s Schroder House or Le Corbusier's villa Cook of the same years. It has its place now in the history books, but on the spot in California, surrounded by the ingenuity and diversity of his other work, being International Style looks less important than being an original Schindler.

For he was one of the originals of our time, and it’s all there from the very first house he built as an independent designer. Conceived as a double house, for his own family and that of a close friend, Clyde Chase, it belongs to no style, started no fashion: it has to be approached and valued on its own terms. Its construction looks odd, though there is local precedent for its large concrete slabs were cast flat on the ground and then tilted up in place to form the walls. They taper thinner towards the top, and are separated by narrow slots, sometimes placed, that look like mediaeval firing slits but are just there to stop the slabs fouling one another edge-to-edge on being tilted into place.

This air of defence and fortification, however, is only on the public sides of the house, towards the street. All the rest of the construction is in wood and quite light - the roofs, the glazed sleeping porches on the roofs, and the sliding glazed walls that look into the system of half-enclosed courtyards that are what the design is really all about. The scale is tiny, but this hardly matters when nearly all the habitable spaces open freely into these courts. The construction techniques are clever throughout, but also have a slightly improvised air. The whole thing has the freshness of a brilliant and highly trained European talent learning to relax and enjoy himself in a California whose golden legend had not yet been smirched by smog, and learning to marry traditional American hammer-and-nail construction to European artfulness in the arts of managing space.

It’s all quite difficult to see nowadays, because the descendants of the original planting shown on Schindler's designs have pretty well taken over the scene, and made a habitable jungle of what was once a plot of shrubby semi-desert land. But it is to be emphasised that this is a habitable jungle; house and vegetation have grown together in a living tribute to one of the greatest domestic designers of the present century.

 

Banham R. Age of the Masters: A Personal View of Modern Architecture. Harper & Row., 1975. P. 158-159.
     
     
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