Neutra’s Silver Lake house named a national historic landmark

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Pioneering architect Richard Neutra’s Silver Lake home has been added to the list of national historic landmarks, with an assist from Rep. Adam Schiff.

Pioneering architect Richard Neutra’s VDL Research House in Silver Lake was added in January to the list of National Historic Landmarks by the U.S. Department of the Interior. It was one of two dozen sites to gain landmark starus.

According to a department press release, the VDL Research House is “the only property where one can see the progression of his style over a period of years and is among the key properties to understanding the national significance of Richard Neutra.”

The glass box overlooking the Silver Lake Reservoir was built in 1932, and is considered a classic example of Midcentury California design.

This past Sunday, April 23, a crowd of supporters gathered at the house for a celebration. The home’s owner, Cal Poly Pomona Foundation, shepherded the application. It got help in Washington, DC from Los Angeles Congressman Adam Schiff, who has become highly visible in recent months as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee which is currently investigating the Trump-Russia connection.

“Last year we worked to try to get this beautiful house designated as a historic landmark. And we were very fortunate, literally in the closing days of the Obama administration, to get that designation approved. This is really a regional, indeed, national treasure. And I would encourage all your listeners to come out, walk the grounds, see the beautiful architecture,” Schiff said. “And it’s a great place to study, to contemplate, to just enjoy getting away from it all. Which, I have to say, I’m enjoying completely at the moment.”

Schiff said he counts the Neutra VDL House among his favorite architectural gems in Southern California.

The Neutra VDL house was filled with Cold War-era art and design in the East and West in the fascinating 2014 exhibition Competing Utopias. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

“One of the things that is so inviting about the house is its use of light. Practically anywhere you walk in the house you have beautiful sunlight coming in, a lot of breathtaking vistas through very large glass windows. It just has a very open and airy and welcoming essence to the place. And it’s hard to walk through this home without feeling a lot of your cares just drift away into the ether.”

Michael Woo, former Los Angeles City Councilman and now Dean of the College of Environmental Design, singled out for credit Sarah Lorenzen, VDL House director and chair of the architecture department at Cal Poly Pomona.

She has been tireless in hosting visitors to the house, which is also her home, he said, and in promoting the house with public events and exhibitions, and working on its restoration.

Dion and Raymond Neutra, Rep. Schiff, Sarah Lorenzen, Michael Woo, Linda Dishman (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

DnA asked Sarah how she felt about nurturing the house to its Historic Landmark status. “This has been such a labor of love over the last 10 years,” she said, “so it’s great that it has this type of recognition. I assume it will also open up other avenues for funding. But most importantly it just brings recognition to the house and recognition to all the things that we do here.”

“I think the house is important as an architectural landmark but actually for me the most important part of the house is what it allows us to do in terms of cultural programs and arts programs. . . that bring the community together to talk about art and architecture.”