Friday, October 12, 2007

of pipe stilts and concrete skeletons...

schindler letter to architectural forum

surprised to find this letter to the editors in a 1947 architectural forum magazine:

forum, i am much interested in your historical outline of contemporary architecture in the may issue, but i feel that you have slowed down the pace of our development unnecessarily.

you show under the date of 1929 a house by corbusier and one by neutra. i enclose pictures of a beach house i designed and built in 1929, which introduces the radical features of both buildings, except that instead of using the architecturally infantile device of pipe stilts, the house is raised on concrete posts that are an organic part of the concrete skeleton supporting the two upper stories of the building.

i should like to use this occasion to set another date. i built my own house in 1922, and it has become the prototype for most of the now fashionable california houses. it introduced the following characteristic features:

a cellarless, rambling, one story building, low on the ground, the floor extending without steps into the garden.

a full-height glass wall with large sliding doors on the patio side, under ample overhangs.

a flat shed roof with clerestory windows.

a solid back wall for privacy and movable partitions for flexibility.

the wall construction uses a prefabricated standard concrete wall unit, which also was a step ahead of contemporaneous experiments with precast, full length walls containing conventional window openings.

it might be interesting to publish this correction to see if the historic dates might be set back still further by others.

r.m. schindler, los angeles, calif.

i'm not sure if this short text by schindler has been published in any of the monographs, but figured aside from sharing some of his words in case it isn't, that it is interesting to note that as late as 1947, his work was still under recognized by the architectural hipsters running the show. left off of more than silly time lines, his work was generally overlooked in most of the important national and international exhibitions. the hints of bitterness here (particularly calling corb's and neutra's use of pipe stilts infantile) was perhaps a reaction to the publicity neutra was receiving by this time.

because of the idiosyncratic and experimental nature of schindler's work from project to project, and perhaps the consistency and cleanliness of neutra's; critics tended to fawn over neutra who never failed to deliver a "neutra house". neutra's work always fit comfortably into the established canon of modern architecture, while schindler's sometimes awkward (yet elegant!)forms and unusual material presences veered into uncharted (and potentially "unacceptable") waters.

in terms of "architecture" it seems ridiculous to compare two geniuses; but it is interesting to think of someone as important as schindler being overlooked 25 years after he designed one of his masterpieces. clearly schindler paid for his willingness to experiment by continually being left out the dialogue; while neutra's development, which followed a path of refinement, would eventually land him on the cover of time magazine...

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