Lecturer Noam Saragosti (’14, architecture) is the new resident director of the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences – where he once greeted guests as a student docent trained by his immediate predecessor Professor Sarah Lorenzen. The docent program is one of many enhancements Lorenzen implemented to re-assert the significance of Richard Neutra’s historic residence as the cultural space that it was in its heydays.
“First and foremost it’s a huge honor to assume this appointment,” said Saragosti, who is also a project manager for Los Angeles-based architecture firm Charlap Hyman & Herrero. “I’m super excited. I also feel very lucky to succeed Sarah Lorenzen as the director. When I was a student at CPP, I gave tours at the VDL house under Sarah’s training and supervision.
“I also took a design studio with Sarah to design,” he continued, “and build installations in the house – mine was on the roof pergola. I look forward to continuing the legacy of the house as an experimental cultural and educational venue, to care for the house, and to learn about it more intimately through the process. I also look forward to the many exciting collaborations that are to come.”
Lorenzen was recently named one of three faculty honorees of the 2019-20 Provost's Awards for Excellence. She was recognized with the Excellence in Service Award for her tenure as Neutra VDL director, a position she occupied from 2007-2020. In 2017, residence was named a National Historic Landmark – a milestone celebrated with U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (CA-28th District), who along with Sen. Diane Feinstein championed the designation.
The Neutra VDL House was donated to Cal Poly Pomona Foundation by Richard Neutra’s widow Dione. The College of Environmental Design manages the 4,200-square-foot property.
Lorenzen supervised, devised and implemented projects, collaborations and programs that physically and culturally restored it. Lorenzen oversaw the restoration of the house, working with mid-century furniture and lighting manufacturers to recreate its original interior.
“Sarah completed many projects to rehabilitate the main house,” said Interim Dean Lauren Weiss Bricker. “Perhaps the most important was her leadership of a team that included architects Marmol and Radziner to waterproof the multiple roofs of the property, which was accomplished in such a way that the roofs can function as shallow pools as Neutra originally designed.”
In addition to developing the student docent program in the Department of Architecture, Lorenzen also organized educational, social and cultural activities that brought together design, art and preservation connected to Neutra’s legacy: weekend guided tours, music recitals and concerts, book presentations, and expert roundtable talks. But Lorenzen’s pride is the artist-in-residence program, which paired Neutra VDL in collaborations with institutions like the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design and the Wende Museum.
“I am most proud of the artist-in-residence program we established,” she said. “It came about when I was pitched an installation project in 2010 by artist Santiago Borja. The project he proposed was very compelling... he created a giant loom on the roof of the house. After that installation, we decided that contemporary art at the VDL would be a great way to breathe new life into the house.”
The house remains closed to tours and exhibitions during the state's stay-home order. But a lot of work is still happening behind the scenes, Saragosti said.
“We’re utilizing this time to settle in and do some restoration to the Garden House,” said Saragosti, referring to his partner Juhee Park (’14, architecture), a project manager at Escher GuneWardena Architecture. “We are also working with a 3D scanning company to scan the house to make it accessible for tours online. We are excited to welcome the CPP community, friends, colleagues, and the wider public at the house once the pandemic is over.”