Richard Neutra – architect and furniture designer
His houses flooded with light, Neutra shaped the scene of Californian Modernism. From there he rose to be an architectural icon embodying the “International Style”. Today, Richard J. Neutra, who died in 1970, has long been seen as one of the great names in the history of modern architecture. This pioneer of Modernism can now be rediscovered as a furniture designer: The individual items or small series production developed by Neutra for clients commissioning his house designs are now manufactured and sold exclusively by VS. The Neutra Furniture Collection by VS came into being through collaboration with Dion Neutra, the son and architectural partner of Richard Neutra.
The start of Modernism
Born in 1892 in Vienna, Richard Neutra studied architecture at the Vienna University of Technology. He also attended Adolf Loos’s private school of architecture in Vienna. In Switzerland Neutra worked with the landscape architect, Gustav Ammann and in Berlin with Erich Mendelsohn. In 1923 Neutra went to the USA where he got to know Chicago’s awe-inspiring skyscraper architecture and from time to time worked directly with Frank Lloyd Wright in Taliesin/Wisconsin.
The early days in Vienna
The Vienna of Richard Neutra’s student days was marked by Otto Wagner’s early 20th century buildings and Neutra was a disciple of this important Jugendstil architect.
The influence of Adolf Loos
As part of his architectural studies, Neutra also attended Adolf Loos‘s private school of architecture. Loos was the pioneer of a linear, straightforward Modernism and he exerted a lasting influence on Neutra. Villa Müller, built in Prague in 1930, is a clear example of Loos’s Modernist work.
Architecture and landscape
In 1919 Neutra spent some instructive time with the important Swiss landscape architect, Gustav Ammann. Neutra’s architecture had always displayed a relationship with nature and the concept of bio-realism, his own term for an approach based on an “inherent and inseparable relationship between man and nature”, was testimony to the influence of Ammann.
Interconnectedness with nature
Gustav Ammann sharpened Neutra’s understanding of the development of architecture as always being closely interconnected with nature and the surrounding landscape.
In 1923 Neutra worked with Erich Mendelsohn in Berlin and was involved with many of this important architect’s projects. Experimentation with reinforced concrete, then a brand new material, offered additional opportunities in architectural design.
The New World
In 1925 Neutra moved to the west coast of America, to Los Angeles, where initially he opened an office with the architect, Rudolf Schindler, after which, in 1927, he opened his own architect’s office. He mostly designed bungalows in California, but also worked on multi-housing projects and schools – including planning and designing furniture for his buildings.
Boomerang Chair for Nesbitt House
The Boomerang Chair has long been iconic: It was designed by Neutra in the 1940s in different versions as easy furniture for projects including the Channel Heights housing development, Nesbitt House (pictured) and Logar House. The sweeping side pieces and straight oak rounded poles in combination with webbing are a hallmark of the era.
In 1945 Neutra even presented his Boomerang Chair in the popular Women’s Day Magazine. He was celebrated there as “one of America‘s leading interior designers”.
Low Round Table
Its formal language crisp and clear and timelessly modern: The Low Round Table with solid wood frame was originally designed in 1942 for the Channel Heights housing project, but also made its way into many other Neutra houses.
Low Organic Table
Neutra first presented the design for this low occasional table in 1945, together with the Boomerang Chair, in the Women’s Day Magazine. The table frame is made from solid oak and forms a stable base for the organically balanced free-form surface. This modern and spacious occasional table can be optimally combined with Lounge Chairs and Sofas.
Channel Heights Stool
In 1942 Neutra also designed this compact oak stool as a modern, simple and practical piece of furniture for the Channel Heights housing project. The stool can also be used as a small occasional table for which the seat is simply removed.
Alpha Seating / armchair and sofa
The chair and two or three-seater sofa are based on Neutra’s designs for Lovell Health House. Neutra developed the Alpha Seating in strictly cubic form – but it is asymmetrical to create inviting places for reading in his houses. Balanced in its dimensions, this seating is pure elegance.
Dinette Table / Low Dinette Table
Dining table and occasional table: The classic wooden tables with their distinctive capped edges reflect an element of Neutra’s architectural roof design, for example that of Tremaine House from 1948. The low occasional table can be optimally combined with the Alpha Seating.
At the historic 1932 “Modern Architecture” exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art, where his Lovell House design and other works were on show, Richard Neutra was presented as the only architect from the American west coast. What was being celebrated there was a new style - the “International Style” - that united modern European architects with those of the USA.
Richard J. Neutras Skizze des Lovell Easy Chairs von 1929 befindet sich heute im Archiv der UCLA University of California, Los Angeles.
Lovell Easy Chair Steel
Das Stahlrohrgestell des Ledersessels erinnert an Bauhausmöbel, zeigt jedoch eine formal spannende Dynamik. Die großzügigen Armlehnen setzen in ihrer Materialität dazu einen Kontrapunkt, mit ihrem massiven Eichenholz bieten sie Komfort und Stabilität.
Ensemble mit Ottoman
In der Neutra Furniture Collection by VS wird der Lovell Easy Chair Steel mit passendem Polsterhocker (Ottoman) angeboten, der den Sessel perfekt ergänzt und ein eindrucksvolles Ensemble schafft.
The distinctive steel spring distinguishes Neutra’s design from other classic cantilever designs of the period. By means of this construction, seat mobility is separated from the backrest – an ergonomic plus. The Cantilever Chair was originally designed in 1929 for Lovell Health House. VS offers the cantilever now as the Cantilever Conference Chair, at normal conference chair seat height.
Cantilever Chair Wood
Neutra‘s design variant of the Cantilever Chair for Branch House, Los Angeles, 1942. The oak frame with wide armrests offers high-level comfort and allows the chair to integrate perfectly in a private living space.
Neutra in Los Angeles
Richard Neutra surrounded himself in his own home in Los Angeles with furniture of his own design such as the Cantilever Chair.
Tremaine Side Chair
Designed by Neutra in 1948 for Tremaine House in Montecito, this dining chair embodies perfectly the design of the beginning of the 1950s and the cocktail party and dry martini lifestyle – a masterpiece in Neutra’s California Style. The chair backrest is flexible for a high degree of comfort. The Tremaine Side Chair combined with the Camel Table creates a dining area that can be both prestigious and inviting.
Dining Armchair Wood
Dining table chair with molded wood frame, also as a Dining Chair without armrests.
The idea for this combined dining and occasional table came to Neutra as he observed how a camel sits down – first going down on its knees. He translated this principle to this multi-functional table: The legs can be folded up and the result is a low occasional table height. The Camel Table version with steel legs was designed by Neutra in 1951 for his Logar House / Granada Hills, the design for the one with wooden legs preceded it in1940 - for Kahn House in San Francisco.
One table, two table heights
The camel was the model: By folding the table legs, Neutra’s Camel Table is transformed from dining table to low occasional table.
Time cover story
Time Magazine honored Neutra in 1949 with a cover story naming him a significant representative of the “International Style”.
Comfortable and timeless, clean straight lines: Neutra himself never actually developed this compact chair; it existed only as a sketch. In the Neutra Furniture Collection by VS the sketch has been made into a real piece of Neutra furniture – a chair with dimensions that are solid but restrained; an enticing seat which suits many different surroundings.
Low Occasional Table / Tea Table
Restrained but still very distinctive: The occasional and tea table are both impressive with their independent, curved free-form surface. The segment-like straight line invites you to place the tables directly against a wall. As small and large occasional tables they are perfect companions to Lounge Sofas or Easy Chairs.
Neutra‘s foremost concern in his architectural work: The integration of man and his house into the natural world; the opening and interconnection of the interior and exterior – this is what he termed bio-realism. His preoccupation with a holistic approach can be seen too in the interior furnishing of his houses.
“A properly designed house is not a static body, but rather to some extent a mirror of the natural events happening all around it, and thus always refreshing for the mind.”
Neutra in Europe
In the 1960s Richard Neutra designed numerous houses in Europe, mostly commissioned in Germany and Switzerland. Interest in Neutra’s work and ideas had been arriving for some time in the old world from California. Thus for example, Haus Rang in Königstein im Taunus, 1964, where Neutra carefully and organically integrated the house into its natural surroundings.
Return to Vienna
From 1966 to 1969 Richard Neutra and his wife Dione were back in Vienna; in 1969 they both returned to Los Angeles.
1970 Neutra, together with Dione, went on a lecture tour through Europe. On April 16 Richard Neutra died of a heart attack while in Wuppertal.
“Mooring for the soul”
According to his “bio-realistic” understanding of architecture, houses for Neutra were “mooring for the soul”, as he put it in his book “Auftrag für Morgen”, published in Germany in 1962 (“Life and Shape”, New York 1962). They should be designed for their owners in a modern way, but offer recreation close to nature.
A modern furniture family
Now, thanks to VS’s collaboration with Dion Neutra, and its exclusive right to manufacture, customers can once again access the unique designs of architect and furniture designer Richard Neutra.
A pioneer of Modernism can be rediscovered – in a furniture collection spanning the European Bauhaus tradition and the Californian Style.
imm cologne 2014
Erstmals wurde auf der Weltleitmesse zum Thema Wohnen und Einrichten in Köln die Neutra Furniture Collection by VS vorgestellt. Diese Premiere fand eine große Besucherresonanz, auffallendes Interesse durch die Presse und vielfältiges Lob durch die Fachwelt. Auf 150 m² präsentierte VS die exklusive Manufaktur-Kollektion den rund 120.000 imm-Besuchern im einladend wohnlichen Ambiente des Messestandes. In Verbindung mit warmen Holzböden, hellen Farben, hochwertigen Stoffen und Teppichen und der Installation einer Kaminwand kamen die Besonderheiten und die Schönheit der Möbelentwürfe von Neutra besonders gut zur Geltung.
A+D Architecture and Design Museum, Los Angeles
Das A+D Architecture and Design Museum in Los Angeles widmete der erstmals von VS aufgelegten Neutra Furniture Collection eine 5-wöchige Ausstellung. Das designnahe Publikum zeigte sich begeistert: Die meisten verbanden bis dato mit dem Architekten Richard J. Neutra einige der bekanntesten Häuser und Villen der kalifornischen Moderne. Doch dass das Lebenswerk Neutras auch eine Reihe von beeindruckenden Möbelentwürfen beinhaltet, die von ihm eben für diese Bauwerke entworfen wurden, war für die meisten doch überraschend. Entsprechend neugierig zeigten sich die Besucher der Ausstellung „Ein Pionier des International Style – der unentdeckte Möbeldesigner“. Mit der Neutra Furniture Collection by VS kehren die Neutra-Entwürfe mehr als 90 Jahre nach Neutras Übersiedlung von Europa nach Chicago wieder in die USA zurück.
May Design Series, London
Vom 17. bis 19. Mai 2014 öffneten die May Design Series in London ihre Pforten. Sie präsentierten Neuigkeiten zu den Bereichen Küche, Schlafzimmer und Bad, Beleuchtung, innovatives Design sowie Inneneinrichtung. In der Sonderschau DX Freight wurden die Highlights der Designmessen in Stockholm, Mailand, Köln und Paris vorgestellt. Das von Architekten und Designern genutzte, internationale Online-Rechercheportal Architonic war verantwortlich für die Zusammenstellung eines Best-of der imm cologne 2014 und wählte dafür unter anderem den Cantilever Chair der Neutra Furniture Collection by VS.
International Contemporary Furniture Fair, New York
Mit mehr als 600 Ausstellern ist der International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York die bedeutendste Design-Messe in Nordamerika. VS nutzte die Gelegenheit, dem amerikanischen Designpublikum die Neutra Furniture Collection by VS zu präsentieren. Das Interesse war groß, verwirklichte der Architekt Richard J. Neutra in den USA doch viele seiner bekanntesten Villen.
Eine Ausstellung der besonderen Art sind die jährlich stattfindenden D’DAYS in Paris. Sie verwandeln die französische Metropole in ein riesiges Designmuseum. Im Mona Bismarck American Center for art & culture präsentierte Jacques Barret, Geschäftsführer des Pariser Design-Showrooms Triode Design, die Ausstellung „American Design – Paris / New York“. Sowohl der Cantilever Chair als auch der Boomerang Chair der Neutra Furniture Collection by VS fanden dort ihren Platz und standen stellvertretend für moderne Klassiker des International Style. Auch die renommierte Interior Design-Zeitschrift Elle Décoration widmete der Ausstellung einige Seiten.
Zum Artikel Elle Décoration
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