A Beast at Bay - Page 2

Delay in sweeping legislation, landmarking of a Neutra give MCM preservationists hope
Fridays on the Homefront
Neutra's Largent House of San Francisco. Photo: courtesy James Dixon Architect
Fridays on the Homefront
Millard Sheets' mural at the (former) Home Savings, Santa Monica: on the move. Photo: Michael Locke

"The residence contains unique elements of design," effused a city staff report, "including extensive use of glass, as seen in the distinctly Neutra sliding glass walls, the use of passive solar and radiant technology for heating and cooling, the use of outrigger structural supports, and outdoor florescent soffit downlighting to illuminate rooms using natural light."

"Together, the elements of the Nelson House represent a unique story, and craftsmanship, a characteristic of all the best architects in history," said the report, terming the four-bedroom home one of only 13 Neutra structures left in the Bay Area, according to the East Bay Times.

Hopefully, being a landmark will help stave off the dragon that feasted on Neutra's Largent House (1936), whose owner, Ross Johnston, demolished it without a permit in September 2017 and filed suit in both state and federal court this February asking $10 million in damages because the San Francisco Planning Commission required that it be rebuilt. A hearing has yet to be scheduled in the suit, filed in both state and federal court.

Of course, buildings by Neutra and other modern masters continue to fall these days or be stalked by the beast. Witness some of Neutra's demolished designs at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, or a threatened creation like his Connell House (1958) in Pebble Beach. Eichler Network features editor Dave Weinstein included that one is his most-endangered dozen for the Spring '19 issue of CA-Modern magazine, in his article ominously titled ‘Not Long for This World?'

And for every minor Nelson House victory, there are lost battles like that to preserve the former Home Savings building in Santa Monica, another on Weinstein's most-endangered list because of its brilliant Milliard Sheets mural.

The Santa Monica Conservancy reported last week that the city has settled conditions with a developer for the mural to be moved…and the dragon feast to commence.

"Visit it now, because we understand that the removal of the mosaic mural is imminent," warned modernist savant Alan Hess this month on Facebook. The Conservancy was more blunt: "See it now before it's gone."

Here be dragons indeed.