Neutra Home Included in Obama’s Last National Landmark List

Neutra VDL House (Image courtesy of David Hartwell)
Neutra VDL House (Image courtesy of David Hartwell)

POMONA, Calif. (Jan. 11, 2017) – U.S Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced the designation of two pioneering structures designed by master modernist architect Richard Neutra among the last round of 24 new national historic landmarks named by the Obama Administration.

Jewell added the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles to the federal government’s official list of 2,532 landmarks of national significance. One of the few residential examples of midcentury modern architecture on the national list, the former Neutra family home and design studio is owned and maintained by Cal Poly Pomona which uses it to educate college students and the public about Southern California’s heritage as a laboratory for modern architecture.

Also added to the national landmarks list is the Painted Desert Community Complex, the visitor center in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona designed by Neutra and Robert E. Alexander.

Supporters of midcentury modern architecture had lobbied the federal government for years to designate the Neutra house as a national landmark, the highest level of federal recognition of national historic significance. If the Neutra house had not been designated as a national landmark before President Obama left office, it would have been necessary to restart the nomination process with the new Secretary of the Interior in the Trump Administration. The Neutra house designation was championed by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), whose district includes the Neutra house, and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) who wrote a letter to Secretary Jewell supporting the Neutra house nomination.

“This decision in the closing days of the Obama Administration is a dramatic gesture underlining the fact that midcentury modern architecture is a vital part of America’s cultural legacy,” said Michael Woo, Dean of Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Environmental Design and a former L.A. city councilman. 

Raymond Neutra, Richard Neutra’s son who grew up in the house, pointed out that the house attracted a stellar list of guests including the composer Igor Stravinsky, architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Renzo Piano, and artists Fernand Leger, Man Ray, and Isamu Noguchi.  His brother Dion Neutra is a local architect who lives near the VDL house in another Neutra-designed structure and runs the Neutra Institute for Survival through Design.

The national historic landmark designation was based on three criteria:

  • Richard Neutra’s stature as a person of national historic importance for his influence on California Modern architecture;
  • The residence’s centrality to numerous career highlights in Neutra’s design projects and book authorship; and
  • Its demonstration of the ideas of the economic assemblage of industrial components and landscape to serve biological and social needs.

The Neutra VDL Studio and Residences was built in three stages: in 1932 and 1940 with Neutra as designer, and in 1964 redesigned with his son Dion after a fire destroyed the original house. The property could accommodate three households and a small office on a 60x70-foot lot. It was given in 1990 to the Cal Poly Pomona Foundation to be managed by the College of Environmental Design. Donations from several foundations funded more than $300,000 in repairs and improvements implemented under the supervision of Prof. Sarah Lorenzen, VDL Research House director.

“I am incredibly pleased that the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences has been designated a National Historic Landmark,” Lorenzen said. “This will significantly raise the visibility of the house enhancing opportunities to fully restore the house, to further develop cultural and arts programming, and to maintain the house as a resource for Cal Poly Pomona students and the community at large.”

The Neutra VDL Studio and Residences, located at 2300 Silver Lake Blvd., in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles, is open to the public for tours every Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm.  Learn more at http://www.neutra-vdl.org and www.neutrahistory.org.