Thursday, 17 May 2012

feature : The Constance Perkins House, Pasadena, California (1955) by Richard Neutra

photo thanks to:

Connie Perkins, an art professor and single lady, first met architect Richard Neutra in Los Angeles in 1948.  She was familiar with his work from reading John Entenza’s influential Arts and Architecture Magazine.  But it took a speech he gave on building great houses cheaply, and her challenge to that assertion, for them to collaborate on a 1,300 ft2 design in 1953. 

Neutra approached the project as he approached all his work, by first establishing the exact needs of the client.  His wasn’t architecture a client had to fit into, but architecture designed specifically to a client’s needs.  And this is where this project became interesting. 

Connie didn’t want the usual living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms.  Her idea was to have one large living space, where she could work, entertain, relax, and sleep; the one bedroom was only for guests use.

Construction was stucco over wood post and beam, quite planar, with much floor to ceiling glass, of course .  Plus, a slightly contentious “inside to outside” reflecting pool that ended up very much defining the house, along with one of Neutra’s trademark outrigger beams that dropped into it.  All in all a small, beautifully designed, beautifully detailed house.

Like most architectural projects the house went a little over budget, but not so that the client became aggrieved.  Connie was delighted with her house, especially when you bear in mind that Neutra had created something totally unique for her, in a good location, for $17,000, a little over the average Los Angeles house price of 1955.
So what are anyone’s chances of getting a unique piece of architecture, designed by a top architect, for a little over today’s average house price?
Well, talk to an RIBA architect. You never know, they might come up with something that will surprise you...

by Richard Woollen, guest author

photo thanks to:
photo thanks to: Julius Shulman

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