Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Schindler-Chace House Today

Today, the Schindler-Chace House is used as a public centre for art and architecture. It is owned by the Friends of Schindler House (FOSH) and is operated by the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/ Contemporary Art, Vienna (MAK). The house was restored by FOSH to its 1925 condition in the eighties with the financial aid of the city. The north sleeping basket built by the Neutras was left, but most of the other changes made by the Schindlers over their lifetimes were scrapped in an effort to bring forth once again Schindler’s original intent.

The house was the first modern California house built to respond to the climate of California and use it to its advantage. It set the precedent for post-war California Houses, the iconic one story dwelling with an open floor plan and a flat roof, which opened to the garden through sliding doors while turning its back on the street ("MAK Centre Los Angeles" ). It was largely ignored for the better part of its lifespan, due to its audacious originality and Schindler’s refusal to advertise it. Only after Schindler’s death was his work finally both appreciated and understood. This is what the MAK Centre tries to emulate in its exhibitions and principles. 

The context of the site has greatly changed since the 20s. West Hollywood became more and more dense as the years wore on, and four-storey apartment buildings started to dominate the landscape. The open, expansive lots that were first built upon are no more, and the house is now surrounded by development. When the house was slated for restoration, some suggested that it be relocated in the desert since its surroundings had changed so much. However, the general consensus was that the house stood on its own, indifferent to the buildings next to it, so it stands today on its original site. 

The house is open to the public for tours and events are regularly held. The exhibitions at the centre are used to promote dialogue and question boundaries, a principle that Schindler preached and practiced and is evident in the Schindler-Chace House ("MAK Centre Los Angeles" )

A map of the immediate neighbourhood around the Schindler house

Schindler's Other Projects

The following collection of photos shows Schindler's other projects after the completion of the Schindler-Chace House. 

Plan of El Pueblo Ribera

Plans of the How House. 1925

Elevations of the How House

Plan of the Lovell Beach House


Gebhard, David, ed. The Architectural Drawings of R.M. Schindler. New York: Garland Publishing, 1993







Monday, 10 December 2012

Artistry Accommodated

The Schindler Chace house acted as the perfect blank canvas for creative types to thrive. The removable walls and seamless transition to the outdoors provided the perfect space for them to host events. Amazingly, the house could transform from the quiet refuge of a studio to a gallery overnight. A flexibility many houses at the time didn't have. The fact is, creative types were drawn here, perhaps because of the lifestyle in the house, or perhaps because the house respected the needs of an artist. Either way, 835 North Kings Road has been more than accommodating to the creators that have lived there over the years. 

The following is a short summary of the brilliant people that have had the pleasure of living at the SCH. The years of stay are noted. 

Announcement for a talk on modern art at the Schindler House 

Rudolf Schindler (1922 - 1953)


Richard Neutra (1925 - 1930)

Architect, Schindler's friend turned rival, lived in the Chace portion with his wife

"I am an eyewitness to the ways in which people relate to themselves and to each other, and my work is a way of scooping and ladling that experience." - Richard Neutra 

Dione Neutra performing at the Schindler House  1928

Dione Neutra (1925-1930)

Richard Neutra's spouse

Musician and performer at Kings Road House

Dione on Schindler: "Schindler was such an individualist... Mr. Neutra always believed that prefabrication would eventually have to be the road for the architects.. but Schindler was very much interested in space exploration, so all his houses were - each house was again completely different, and designed for a particular space."

Pauline Schindler (1922-1927/ Late 1930's - 1977)
Rudolf Schindler's spouse

Talented graphic and typography designer, editor, writer, teacher, toymaker
Loved to host events at the house, sponsored lectures and exhibited
Ran local leftist newspaper called Carmelite
Interested in painting, theatre, and dancing

Galka Scheyer (1931-1933)

"Recalling Happy Memories" by Peter Krasnow
Galka Scheyer lecturing on the Blue Four at the house
Modern art dealer and American representative of The Blue Four (the painters Vasily Kandinsky, Alexei Jawlensky, Paul Klee, and Lyonel Feininger)
Referred to Schindler as "Five" in reference to his comparable talent to the modern artists
Lectured at the house

 John Bovingdon (1928)

Remembered for the haunting performances he performed in the gardens when the Schindlers hosted large parties.

Bovingdon, 1928 


 Edward Weston (1930)


John Cage (1934) 

Music composer

Clyde Chace (1922 - July 1924)


Marian Chace (1922 - July 1924)

Clyde Chace's spouse

The house wasn't like any other because it didn't conform to the trend of consumption. Rather it promoted one to produce. The structure was a piece of art, and quite frankly, it inspired its lucky inhabitants. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sunday Parties for Free-Thinkers

  A view of the courtyard where social gatherings were held

The outdoor space of the Schindler-Chace house offered a beautiful setting for high spirited gatherings. These courtyards were vast in green land and offered a welcoming ambiance with their open fires. This was how Schindler intentionally designed the courtyards; they were meant to be social spaces. Visitors came and went on a constant basis, some staying a month, a year, or more. The amount of infamous personalities passing through the house was extraordinary. Friends of the Schindlers who were avant-garde in the arts, education and politics were welcomed during Sundays’ open house to join for dinner. When there was a large number of guests, the sawhorses would be brought out. Planks stored on the roof were taken out to set over them to make for tables and on boxes to make for seats. Events were often held in this way as well, whether it was a Bohemian dress-up party, or for a Thanksgiving celebration. 

Thanksgiving at Kings Road, 1923

The most memorable event during these Sunday parties was John Bovington’s dance recital. Along with his companion, Jeanya Marling, they danced in scanty attire, or a lack of thereof. Dione Neutra described these occasions to be sublime, for they would illuminate the garden at night. For music, they would hit gongs which were hung on ropes. Beginning with crawling, the two performers would slowly evolve from lower animal forms to the ultimate human. As they finally stood erected on two legs, they continued to move in trance. For the audience, this was the most thrilling portion of the night.

Schindler's home, 835 North Kings Road, often served as a venue for
performances and presentations

There was always a mixture of people, extending from the most provincial to the most liberal. What was happening was the realization of Pauline’s wishes. She had previously confessed to her mother, "I should like it to be as democratic a meeting-place as Hull House where millionaires and laborers, professors and illiterates, the splendid and the ignoble, meet constantly together."  The conversations that occurred between the diverse group of guests during these special occasions were nothing short of worthy discussion about revolutionary ideas in all fields. Arguments never escalated to aggressiveness and guests were always encouraged to bring their friends to join in dialogue. The rooms and courtyards of the house had freed everyone’s expression in this way. 

Works Cited:
Sarnitz, August. R.M. Schindler: Architect, 1887-1953 A Pupil of Otto Wagner, Between International Style and  Space Architecture. Rizzoli International Publications Inc., 1988.
McCoy, Esther. Vienna to Los Angeles: Two Journeys. Santa Monica, California, Arts + Architecture Press, 1979.
Darling, Michael, and Smith, Elizabeth A. T. The Architecture of R. M. Schindler. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001.
Crosse, John. Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism, 1927-1936, Southern California Architectural History. Last modified 2010. Accessed December 8th, 2012.
Fonck, Arnoute. Schindler-Chase house by Rudolf Schindler, 2007.

The Sleeping Baskets

The sleeping baskets further defined the influence of nature in the house. The experience of camping at Yosemite National Park, can be compared to the experience of sleeping in one of these sleeping baskets. 

“For sleeping he provided the sleeping baskets. Architecturally they consisted of a canopy and beams that met at four posts at mitred corners... Visually, they were planes supported on spider legs.”

 Kathryn Smith, Schindler House


Smith, Kathryn, and Grant Mudford. Schindler House. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001.

The Anomalous House

Schindler had a fascinating approach to early modern architecture, he was ahead of his time. His ideals were different and thus, his house was too.

Light play through window
The Schindler-Chace house was revolutionary because it experimented with the absence of a central heating system. (Hines, 244) While 1920's technology allowed for a comfortable mechanized indoor climate, the Schindlers opted for fireplaces. (Hines, 244) The Schindlers and Chaces adapted to a lifestyle that conditioned them to minimize the bodily discomforts of the cool Los Angeles evenings, not only in the exposed rooftop sleeping baskets, but also in the unheated studios after the fires died.(Hines, 244) The camping lifestyle became more than just a temporary approach to life in Yosemite. It became a lifestyle choice that grew inside Schindler himself, and as any house should be, it became a reflection of life.

What makes 835 North Kings Road unique is Schindler's bohemian design. A graceful aura is captured by the structure, from the way insulite panels are "few, thin and removable," to the adaptive furniture. (Smith, Darling, 124) The house's studios adapt to its users requests. Unlike other homes of the era, many rooms had no default program. The studios are left bare so that a novelist, artist, draftsmen or anyone else could find them accommodating for a creative lifestyle. (Smith, 21) The user is free to turn the space into whatever they want. It's utterly breathtaking that the simplicity of these rooms is so hospitable. Today we adapt rooms for certain needs, add vents, shelves and other built-ins to push a program, to promote a certain type of work, but all we need is the bare essentials. Schindler understood that. He simply made space, and let one breath in it.

Bathroom with concrete bath and counter
The simplicity of the house is hauntingly beautiful. It's meant to embody the idea of mans original home: the cave. (Smith, Darling, 124) The repeated slit window openings, clerestories and redwood framed window walls allow light to dance from the outside into the interior. The bathroom even has one of these slits,  allowing light to illuminate the sink. (Smith, 57) Schindler used poured concrete to match the wall to form the bathtub and vanity, completely unadorned.(Smith, Darling, 124) He opposed the idea of lavish porcelain fixtures. (Smith, Darling, 124) What he wanted to achieve was an indigenous, cave-like feel. Even the fireplaces were left minimal. Instead of a large hearth separated from the ground, Schindler's fireplace sits right on grade, allowing the flames to rise right from the floor. (Smith, Darling, 124) These are just a few of the details that display Schindler's ideas of a modern home, "a timid retreat."

The Schindlers stated that the house was intended to free them of a traditional work day, yet  the house nonetheless required a lot of maintenance. (Smith, 21) The work required had to do with the way the house was built. The wooden surfaces were untreated, and the thin slits of glass fixed between concrete were always victim to cracking. (Hines, 244) To the Schindlers, the idea of a house was grounded in the belief of constructing in a minimal or no refinement approach, or as Pauline Schindler liked to put it, "the essences." (Hines, 244) The essences avoided the practicalities of proper detailing. (Hines, 244) As a result, the house was always under threat from the elements.

The 1922 house was otherworldly for the time, it didn't conform to social expectations of a home. The Schindler Chace House uses a simple material palette and it promotes a simple life through lack of luxury. Yet at the same time, the inhabitants live lavishly knowing that they've got a completely original home. 

The Schindler Frame

The Schindler Frame

Balloon Frame construction was developed in the late 1880’s, and was beginning to become the most popular construction method in the United States. Schindler, along with Frank Lloyd Wright, embraced the construction process and its presence was dominant in all of their projects. The Schindler Frame, first written about 1947, eliminated a multitude of structural makeshift details, simplified contemporary home building by cutting all of the wall studs to a standard door height, and in order to achieve a greater height in the space, a multi layer roof assembly was eliminated in favour of a tongue and groove plank which provided a greater span and height, and clerestory windows were incorporated into the design. Basically two-thirds of the frame was the wall assembly, and the remaining third, was the roof. Schindler “set out seven points which lead to qualities of space that are tied to his innovations in conventional wood framing”:
  1. Large opening in walls
  2. Varying ceiling heights
  3. Low horizontal datum
  4. Clerestory Windows
  5. Large overhangs
  6. Interior floor close to exterior ground
  7. Continuity between adjoining space units

However in the Schindler Chace House, the one-third two-third rule only applied in the theoretical composition, not in the actual construction. For example, in the Schindler Frame design, the low horizontal datum would have been 6’-9” high, however in the house it only reaches 6’-3”. The overall height of the house is 8’-8”. The division of the framed window wall are at 12” not at 16”, which would have followed the one-third two-third module.

“Schindler’s exposed frame construction of ribs and lines is the genesis of his system of spatial geometry that he would articulate in about twenty years.”
Kucker 185

In the studios, the 45 inch wide concrete panels were framed with redwood, which further divided the 4 foot module in half with the spacing of roof joists and vertical members. “Paired Beams” allowed for a lower ceiling and suggest divisions within the room. 

“Another L-figure is formed by the comparatively lightweight redwood timber frame of roof and walls completing Schindler’s consistent attention to the relationship of geometry and material assemblies with an end toward modulating space, climate, light and mood.”
Kucker 185

Pauline Schindler Studio. Paired beams are on the top right


Kucker, Patricia. "Framework: Construction and Space in the architecture of Frank Lloyd Write and Rudolf Schindler." The Journal of Architecture Volume 7 Summer 2002. (accessed December 8, 2012).www.bolender.com/Frank%20Lloyd%20Wright/Files/Framework%20Summer%202002.pdf

Schindler House Renders

The Construction

“The traditional methods by which structural members of the house are covered, onion-like, with layers of finishing materials is abandoned.” 
R. M. Schindler

The composition of the house can be described with three interlocking L-figures, that revolve around the central fire place in between Pauline Schindler’s and Marian Chase’s Studios. One L-figure for the Schindler wing, another for the Chace wing, and a third one for the guest bedroom. 

Sketch of First Floor Plan

Location of House in West Hollywood
In a letter to Pauline Gibling’s parents, Schindler outlined his intentions with the design, and at the same time asked for a loan. 

“The basic idea was to give each person his own room - instead of the usual distribution - and to do most of the cooking right on the table - making it more of a social ‘campfire’ affair, than the disagreeable burden to one member of the family...”
R.M Schindler 

The lot on 835 North Kings Road was purchased on November 21, 1921, shortly after their camping trip in Yosemite National Park. Interestingly enough, Irving Gill’s Dodge house was only one block away. The construction of the Dodge House was also an influence in the way that their house was built.

In order to save costs, both Schindler and Chase decided to work as Architect and builder. By February 13, 1922, Schindler had secured a mortgage of $2000 from a bank, and another $5000 from Pauline’s parents. On the same day they also celebrated the groundbreaking. The house sat on a slab on grade foundation, which served as a foundation and the final floor, and eliminated the need for a basement. Chace had borrowed some concrete equipment from Gill, and by the middle of March, they were casting the concrete tilt up slab walls. These rectangular panels were poured onto wooden forms, and membranes like soft soap, kraft paper and burlap were used to prevent adhesion to the slab. Eventually these slabs were raised using a tripod with a block and tackle. Schindler and Chace learned the process of tilt-slab construction for Irving Gill. This process was also used in many projects like the Dodge house, and La Jolla Woman’s Club. In between each panel was an insert of 3 inch wide glass that would let in light. The erection of the redwood frames was the next step in the construction. 

“The tilt-up panels (45 inches wide, 8 1/2 feet high, tapering in thickness from 9 1/2 inches at the bottom to 5 inches at the top) are bold in scale. The concrete is smooth and gray, the glass both clear and milky white (sandblasted), and the Insulite is tan” 

Smith 33
Timeline of Construction showing the different steps of the process

Forming the concrete slab. March 15-30, 1922

Tilting the slab. April 24, 1922

Exterior Shot

Smith, Kathryn, and Grant Mudford. Schindler House. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001.

Kucker, Patricia. "Framework: Construction and Space in the architecture of Frank Lloyd Write and Rudolf Schindler." The Journal of Architecture Volume 7 Summer 2002. (accessed December 8, 2012).www.bolender.com/Frank%20Lloyd%20Wright/Files/Framework%20Summer%202002.pdf


The following timeline shows significant world events, Schindler's influences. The coloured bars represent the occupants that have lived in the Schindler house since it was built in 1922, until the Friends of Schindler House (FOSH) purchased the house in 1980.

For a higher quality image visit:

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Explanatory Diagrams

Fireplaces were located in both the interior and exterior spaces to imply that the courtyards were equally important rooms as well

The house was built with a permanent skeletal of slab-tilt concrete, a skin of light wood framing, and finally a cover of moveable screens.  

Outdoor Access from Studios

“Joining the outdoors with the indoors spatially to satisfy a new attitude toward nature and movement cannot be achieved by merely increasing the size of the conventional wall openings.” 
R. M. Schindler

The following is a plan overlaid with garden spaces. Schindler planned for seamless transition to the outdoors, that is why he had glass facing the garden. The glass walls were also easily moved and in some cases removable entirely. The outdoor portions of the plan were also sunken two feet in some areas of the lot to further distinguish them as unique outdoor spaces. Because of Schindler's strategic planning it is easy to see how the green spaces essentially become an extension of the house. The studio combined with the outdoors shares similarities with a tent. Three walls enclosed with the last open for easy outdoor access. 

Schindler House After Renovations

An axonometric drawing of the house based on drawings by the Historic American Buildings Survey in 1969.  The view is from the southeast. It shows the extent of the renovations and additions to the house over the years before it was restored to its 1925 condition in the 80s. The sleeping baskets are enclosed, with the nursery addition on the Schindler's.

Schindler House in Plan, Section and Elevation

"In 1921, with the impact of California fresh on my mind, I built my own house, trying to meet the character of the locale... I introduced features which seemed to be necessary for life in California; an open plan, flat on the ground; living patios; glass walls; translucent walls; wide sliding doors; clerestory windows; shed roofs with wide shading overhangs. These features have now been accepted generally and form the basis of the contemporary California house."

R.M. Schindler

Drawings based off plans by R.M. Schindler circa 1922

Esther McCoy on the Schindler House

Pauline Schindler's studio, also where McCoy worked as a draftswoman for Schindler.

At first glance, the Schindler House does not explain itself. In order to understand it, an insightful effort is required. It is, superficially, a combination of concrete and Japanese timber framing. The concrete panels set a rhythm, but was interrupted by at the corners when the timber frame and the sliding canvas doors altered the tempo. It was both lean and rich. The walls and floors were unfinished, and the solid masonry dissolved at the corners by the extending wood fascia. From the structure and plan came the richness. Doubled members, spanning each room, provide support for lightweight and movable partition walls.  

There is both economy and ampleness in the floor plan. Economy is achieved by repetition and by limiting the number of rooms. The ampleness is the size and beautiful disposition of the space of the rooms. There are four major rooms, all of the same size and plan… Each couple was given two studio rooms; the two formed an L, which half enclosed a garden. The garden was designed as an outdoor living room. This was a great economy and also a chance to give more privacy to each couple, for the second L faced in the opposite direction. It was a case of unity and separation… The two pairs of studios were connected by a kitchen, shared by the Schindlers and Chaces. [It] is a minor room, reflecting the attitude which had crystallized by 1920 that equality was possible and desirable… The floor plan, nearly always a reflection of the status of women, here indicated that women might well spend less time in the kitchen (Morgan, 104).

Schindler was preoccupied with the cube; his rooms and houses were based upon cubes, fractured in design. He carved these spaces’ geometry so carefully that they seemed detached and formed a hierarchy of spaces that would then rejoin the whole. Other, smaller details naturally followed this precedent. The unit furniture chair that he designed “created volumes, planes, voids, and then turned into their opposites (Morgan, 105). 
Schindler drew himself with a pencil. Every detail, form, space had the solitude he himself required and planned for each resident of the Schindler House. 

Pauline Gibling and Rudolph Schindler: Firebrand Wife and the Suffragette

Pauline Gibling, 1919

Sophie Pauline Gibling was a refined rebel, much like her avant-garde husband. By 1915, she had received a four-year liberal education at Smith College.  It gave her a privileged authority which she used to its maximum capacity. After completing her studies in music there, she went to work in the slums of Boston and at Jane Addam’s Hull-House in Chicago.  Pauline met Schindler in Chicago in early 1919, during an orchestra performance. She had immediately charmed him with her characteristic intensity. Their first conversation about the war had delighted Schindler due to Pauline’s open nature with criticism. Schindler was new to America, just recently acquainted with circumspection, thus it was relieving to him to hear someone speak so unguardedly in public at last.

They formed their relationship on the basis of this free-thought sharing process they had. Both were progressive individuals and this was clearly illustrated in Schindler’s design of the house. He divided the spaces in such a way that each of the four cells for the four occupants were of equivalent size and importance. 
The floor plan had represented Schindler’s ideal marriage in this sense: equality. 
Instead of differentiating the habitants with gender roles, he viewed them all as artists who needed their own studios to work in; Pauline was a music composer, Chace was a painter, and his wife was a ceramicist. The kitchen also embedded the same belief as it was never indicative of women's presence. It was simply a place of producing meals utilized by both genders. This was perhaps the first plan that spoke so blatantly of equality and a respect for identity. 

It should be noted that such idealistic thinking was still considered radical for its time. Women’s suffrage had begun early in 1893 and escalated until 1920, when the nineteenth amendment was ratified. While women were finally casting their votes on a national level, Schindler was making his own contribution to the movement with his designs. Whether it was a conscious effort or not, he had become another important suffragette in this way.

Works Cited:
Zeigle, Lisa. California Moderne, World Monuments Funds, 2003.
McCoy, Esther. Vienna to Los Angeles: Two Journeys. Santa Monica, California, Arts + Architecture Press, 1979.
Darling, Michael, and Smith, Elizabeth A. T. The Architecture of R. M. Schindler. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001.
California: Women Work for Wages, Votes and Visibility, WOW Museum: Western Women's Suffrage - California

The Once Overlooked, R. M. Schindler

Dubbed as “the least understood American pioneer of modern architecture,” Rudolph Michael Schindler was an architect who had his own set of values, which ultimately set him apart from the prominent architects of his time. He was, foremost, an artist before an architect. In a letter written to his friend and rival, Richard Neutra, Schindler stressed the important notion of creating work for the sake of expression without expecting a result of profit. This socialistic mindset clarifies that Schindler’s objective was never wealth or fame. What he valued more was art, and this allowed him to experiment, freeing him from the architectural conventionalities of his period. In appearance, Schindler was much like a bohemian, dressed in a pullover middy shirt with full sleeves, a smock-like jacket of rich fabric, a cummerbund, white duck trousers and Mexican huarachis. With his hair curled back, he was frequently shown in photos striking dramatic poses or laughing candidly. These countenances did not betray. It simply matched his genuine friendliness and enthusiasm for life.

He was nevertheless an elusive personality. While he stood at the forefront of progressive architectural and social thought, Schindler had a taciturn disposition, always hiding his serious thoughts behind his joking manner. In this way, he did not cause any apparent conflict within the world of architecture. Instead, he was quietly challenging the establishment with his works.
Born in Vienna, Austria in 1887, Schindler studied engineering and architecture under the guidance of his influential mentors Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos. In 1914, Schindler left for Chicago in hope of finding an opportunity to work with Frank Lloyd Wright, after being inspired by his 1910 Wasmuth Portfolio. He began his work for Wright in 1918. He was sent by Wright to Los Angeles in 1920 to help with supervising the construction of the Hollyhock house, and within a year, Schindler had established himself as an independent architect with the erection of his first piece of work: his home and studio on North Kings Road. Throughout his career, Schindler had designed a hundred and fifty architectural works that constantly challenged conventional methods of design and construction while alluding to his thesis of “space architecture. “

In his 1912 manifesto, “Modern Architecture: A Program,” Schindler proposed that the fundamental idea of a dwelling was rooted in the cave. He spoke of the architect’s ambition as perpetually being “the gathering and massing of material which will eventually form into spaces for human shelter. He argued that the interior space of such shelters were mere after-thoughts, as all efforts at form-making were confined to using plastic structural mass material to decorate and create a face in these interiors. Based on this argument, Schindler suggested that the new method would be dependent on the efficiency of material usage, as this would result in the elimination of plastic sculptural mass. The modern architect would conceive and form a room only with ceilings and wall slabs. In this sense, the architectural design would be led by space, concerning itself with space as its raw material, producing the articulated room as a result. Schindler’s thesis was born here: for him, the real medium of architecture was space.

“The old problems have been solved and the styles are dead… The architect has finally discovered the medium of his art : SPACE. A new architectural problem has been born.” 
R. M. Schindler, Manifesto 1912

Works Cited:
Sarnitz, August. R.M. Schindler: Architect, 1887-1953 A Pupil of Otto Wagner, Between International Style and  Space Architecture. Rizzoli International Publications Inc., 1988.
Schindler, Rudolph. Modern Architecture: A Program, 1912.
McCoy, Esther. Vienna to Los Angeles: Two Journeys. Santa Monica, California, Arts + Architecture Press, 1979.
"LA OBSCURA: Schindler Biography." University of Southern California, 1999. Accessed December 8th 2012 
"Rudolph M. Schindler." Accessed December 8th 2012 <http://www.mak.at/en/collection/sammlung_artikel/rudolph_m_schindler?j-dummy=reserve>

Friday, 7 December 2012

Los Angeles: The Sun-kissed City

Los Angeles is a modern, sprawling urban expanse. With a population of almost eighteen million in the Greater L.A. Area, the city is the second largest metropolitan in the United States, only taking a back seat to New York. (http://geography.about.com/od/lists/a/csa2005.htm) R.M. Schindler's home, as part of the Los Angeles Area, is blessed to embed itself in a spectrum of landscapes. Southern California is a land of inviting beaches, expansive coastal plains, verdant foothills, tortuous canyons, rugged mountains and endless valleys, all under the sun. (Kaplan, 19). In terms of landscape, few regions of the world can match to the variety of terrain within Los Angeles; a semiarid desert facing an ocean coastline encircled by four mountain ranges. (Kaplan, 19) The city is surrounded by the San Gabriels, San Bernardinos, San Jacintos, Santa Susanas, and peirced by the Santa Monicas and Santa Anas. (Kaplan, 19). These mountain ranges, although scenic, also perform tasks far more important than appearing in Hollywood films. It is because of the city's many highlands that L.A. is fortunate to have a rare micro-climate. Winter storms are blocked from the north, and sea breezes from the west are contained. (Kaplan, 21) As a result, L.A. has a semitropical climate, appropriately compared to the Mediterranean. In fact author Lorin Blodget stated in 1859 that the climate of Southern California can be compared most easily to Italy, its warm hospitable conditions were perfect for those suffering from asthma. (Kaplan, 39) Ironicly, the smog that has since settled in California is quite detrimental. Despite the micro-climate's presence, Los Angeles surprisingly contains even smaller climate zones. Any news report in the city will reveal different forecasts for the beaches, financial district, east and west sides, the low and high deserts, and of course the mountains. (Kaplan, 23). Meteorologists have noted the distinct regions' unique smaller climates, in total, they've recognized over two dozen distinct climate zones within the city's immediate area. (Kaplan, 23) In fact, it is common for citizens in two different neighbourhoods to experience large temperature differentials. While someone at home may be sitting in a sweater, a neighbour at the bottom of a foothill may be swimming in a backyard pool.

Overall, Los Angeles is warm year round. It's the sun that attracts the masses to visit and often move to the metropolis. If it weren't for the sun, L.A. would not be the same, and definitely it wouldn't have boomed the way it did. Schindler took advantage of Los Angeles's unique climate. It allowed him to plan a space that could incorporate the outdoors more seamlessly than previous cities he'd worked in such as Vienna and Chicago. The opportunity allowed Schindler to create a new style of architecture in his house, one that better reflected California's unique conditions. His "California Scheme" was evident in the studio rooms, where "concrete walls on three sides" were accompanied by "a front open (glass) to the outdoors." (Kaplan, 21)
Take a look at the lack of mechanical heating and the placement of outdoor sleeping baskets and it becomes easy to see that Schindler fully embraced the California heat.

The following graph displays daily temperature ranges in central L.A.

Population Explosion of Los Angeles

Footage of Hollywood in the 1920's

Nature as Inspiration

Yosemite redwoods
Schindler became deeply inspired by the American wilderness after a visit to the mountains of Yosemite. The Schindler Chace house became a reflection of the experience of camping in both the literal and metaphorical sense. The features of the home are a manifestation of the ambiance of the wild, and the lifestyle one adopts in that environment.

Only two weeks after the 1921 visit to Yosemite, Schindler finalized his design for his new house in West Hollywood. (Smith, 20) In a letter to his wife's parents, Schindler described how the experience of the wilderness was captured in his future home. (Smith, 20) He wrote, "The basic idea was to give each person his own room - instead of the usual distribution- and to do most of the cooking right on the table, making it more a social 'campfire' affair, than the disagreeable burden to one member of the family." (Smith, 20) The house's design eliminated a conventional kitchen for each couple and thus eliminated a housewife's drudged routine. In exchange for a kitchen, many fireplaces were placed throughout the home. (Smith, 21) The utilities were paired with the fireplaces so that cooking and cleanup could take place in studios, quickly and easily. (Smith, 21)

Installing the redwood framing on the Clyde Chace studio
(Smith, 22)
The Schindler Chace residence was unique in the sense that it could handle crowds of varying magnitudes. During the house's lifetime, many extravagant parties were hosted. In order to accommodate up to one hundred guests, the interior partitions filled with Insulite -conceived as non-load-bearing frames - were removed. (Smith, 27) The plan of the house essentially adapted to the people inside, just as nature adapts in order to thrive. Even the parties were characteristically wild. Especially when John Bovingdon re-enacted symbolic rituals from Bali with his bare-breasted partner. (Smith, 29) The gardens on the outside further provided a backdrop for haunting dances because of the smooth transition between indoor and outdoor spaces, made possible by the warm California climate (Smith, 29)

Schindler at his campground in
Yosemite National Park
Schindler's plan was essentially based on austere abstraction. (Smith, 30)  There was no living room, dining room, or bedroom anywhere in the house. Instead, four studios were separated for each member of the household.  The four independent studios represented Schindler's interpretation of the family as a group of individuals with common goals, implying that the members were artists whose lives were an expression of creativity. (Smith, 21) Interestingly, the studios had no beds so they didn't double as a bedroom. Schindler designed what he called sleeping baskets, planes supported on what looked like spider legs on the roof of the studio space. (Smith, 30) As a whole, the house's rooms existed as voids that derived meaning based on furniture arrangement. (Smith, 30) The furniture was easily moved as different uses for rooms became more desirable. (Smith, 30) In essence, the versatility of each space to be free of a permanent program was a priority. It is a concept that was directly inspired by the adaptability of nature.

R. M. Schindler designed the house with a vivid memory of his shelter in Yosemite. (Smith, 21) He intended for the SCH to be a reflection of the same freedom and celebration of life he experienced in the wilderness - the psychology of a uninterrupted vacation where the irritations of the workday were evaded. (Smith, 21)
Right before his death, Schindler reflected on the origins of the house. He stated, "I camped under the open sky, in the redwoods, on the beach, the foothills, and the desert. I tested its adobe, its granite and its sky. And out of a carefully built up conception of how the human being could grow roots in this soil - I built my house. And unless I failed, it should be as Californian as the Parthenon is Greek and the Forum Roman." (Hines, 245)

The tent consists of three solid walls...
...with a movable partition in front.

This wall is openable to the outside...

...to the green space extending the house.