Two Neutra Homes Winners!

Restorations of his SoCal house designs among LA Conservancy award honorees
Fridays On the Homefront
For the Los Angeles Conservancy's upcoming 2015 Preservation Awards
May 7, two Southern California Richard Neutra residential projects will be honored, including the Hafley House (pictured here). Photo: JohnEllisPhoto.com
Fridays On the Homefront
Fridays On the Homefront
'Before restoration' (top) and 'after restoration' (bottom) shots
of the Hafley House dining area. Photo: JohnEllisPhoto.com

When adapting designs by a mid-century modern master like Richard Neutra to a new century, a lot can go wrong. The Los Angeles Conservancy is celebrating two Neutra homes done right, for the first time in at least its recent history.

A banquet May 7 in Los Angeles' historic Biltmore Hotel is the site of the Conservancy's 2015 Preservation Awards, their 34th annual round honoring achievement in preservation. Three Southern California homes—the two Neutras and Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House—will be feted along with two apartment complexes, a government building, an advocate, a railway, and a school district.

Somewhat oddly, the Neutras will share a single award despite different owners and project teams. "Our jury kind of struggled choosing one or another," says Adrian Fine, LAC's director of advocacy. Combining them was "a nice message and story," he says, adding, "It's more typical that our Preservation Awards go to bigger projects, commercial projects."

Conservancy staff could not recall any other Neutra houses being so recognized, although the Poster Neutra apartment complex of North Hollywood received the Preservation Award in 2007.

Both the Neutra houses, the Kun House (1936) of the Hollywood Hills and the Hafley House (1953) of Long Beach, are being rewarded for "extraordinary dedication" to the authentic materials and original designs by Neutra, a Vienna native and giant of Los Angeles architecture.

Neutra designed several dozen modernist homes built in Los Angeles County from 1929 to 1959, after which he worked largely in Europe. It was the majority of his work in this period, starting with the landmark Lovell House (1929) and including the Kronish House (1954), once slated for demolition but then sold to a preservation-minded buyer in 2011 for $12.8 million.

Both the project teams at the Kun House and Hafley House got to consult with architects in Neutra's inner circle: respectively, his son Dion Neutra and staffer John Blanton. The Hafley team had the additional advantage of a wealth of original source material archived by the owner of its companion home, the Moore House.

Early in his career, Neutra built the house for Joseph Kun, publisher of the Los Angeles Examiner and a fellow native son of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The project has the interesting sidelight of being restored by a founder of one of quirkiest of 1980s rock bands, Gerry Casale of Devo, a New Wave group rising out of the turmoil of late ‘60s Kent State University.