During the Thanksgiving break while in the course of visiting our L.A. relatives my wife and I made a side trip to the Lovell Health House, in the Hollywood Hills above Griffith Park. Constructed 1929 by architect Richard Neutra, the house is widely regarded as amongst the seminal works in the history of the modern movement in American architecture.
Neutra, recently emigrated to the U.S from his native Austria, brought with him the cutting edge theories and practices of the burgeoning International Modernism Movement in Europe.
His client, Philip Lovell, was a physician, naturopath, and hugely popular radio host. Neutra’s approach to his clients was to think of himself as a therapist and the client as his patient, in practice submitting them to detailed questionnaires examining their needs in oft-times surprising detail. One can surmise that from the perspective of professional interpersonal approach the two men discovered a natural affinity almost from the start.
On Lovell’s site perched on a hill commanding unparalleled views Neutra designed the house in answer to Lovell’s needs and the geometry and orientation of the site. To preserve the views, maximize window areas, and create a compelling architectural statement Neutra chose steel frame construction as the primary structural system. Consistent with this he chose a factory-made, industrial style window system, deploying it in broad, unbroken expanses. He contrasted these with linear swaths of white cement plaster.
Philip Lovell was immediately taken to the house and praised his architect publicly. Included in the 1932 famous exhibition on the International Style at the Museum of Art in New York curated by Phillip Johnson it immediately garnered the esteemed, international admiration and renown it enjoys to this very day.