Neutra VDL Studio and Residences
History of VDL
Eighty-eight years ago, in Los Angeles, with a no-interest loan from Dutch philanthropist Dr CH Van Der Leeuw, Viennese-American architect Richard Neutra built a radical "glass house" with rooftop and balcony gardens on Silverlake Boulevard. He called it the VDL Research house, after his benefactor. It was designed to accommodate his office and two families on a small 60 x 70 foot lot.
Seven years later, as his family expanded, he built a garden house on the back of the lot. This compact wing had walls that slid open onto a pocket garden to be shared by the addition and main house. In 1963 after a disastrous fire, that left unscathed only the 1940 Garden house and basement of the original wing, Richard and his son and partner Dion Neutra had a chance to redesign the main house. Two floors and a penthouse solarium were built on the original prefabricated basement structure. They applied what the practice had learned in the interim about sun louvers, water roofs, "nature-near", and physiologically motivated design.
It is a place, which could tell many stories. Over a thirty-year period hundreds of projects on four continents were designed there. These included the country's first modern school, many distinguished residences, and important public buildings. At mid century Neutra's influence was pervasive. In 1949 a Time Magazine cover story characterized him as "second only to lordly Frank Lloyd Wright". VDL saw the beginning of the careers of architects who came as apprentices to work there from all over the world including, among others Gregory Ain, Raphael Soriano and Donald Wexler. Photographer Julius Shulman's career started with this office. VDL played host to cultural figures like Frank Lloyd Wright, László Moholy-Nagy, Jorn Utzon, Charles and Ray Eames; religious figures like Robert Schuller and J. Krishnamurti; scientists like Rene Dubos and Linus Pauling; and to political figures and activists like John Anson Ford, Frank Wilkinson and Vice President Hubert Humphrey.