The Connell House, located in Pebble Beach, CA is an intact and representative example of the Modernist architectural movement commonly called the “International Style” designed by internationally renowned Modernist architect Richard Neutra.
The house is characterized by strong horizontal lines juxtaposed against both projecting and receding planes and volumes. The flat roof, with extended, cantilevered eaves and beams and a broad wooden fascia, establishes the horizontal emphasis. Bands of windows along the westerly, sea-facing elevation reinforce the theme.
Approaching a U-shape in plan, approximately 3,300 square feet in area, the house is split level in response to its relationship to the landform.
History of Connell House
In 1957, Neutra began working on a design for Arthur and Kathleen Connell, who had purchased a coveted, Pacific view lot in the exclusive community of Pebble Beach. The design process apparently involved numerous meetings with Neutra at his home and studio in Silver Lake and the completion of a 30-page response to a questionnaire by the Connells that enabled Neutra to gauge his clients’ needs and hopes for their new residence. Arthur Connell later recalled, “The original concept seemed so absolutely right that it was never altered in any important aspect, although Richard himself had not as yet seen the site”.
The house was constructed by Monterey-based builder Harold C. Geyer and completed in August 1958. Landscape was provided by Solomon and Hoy and reflected Neutra’s and the clients’ love of Japanese-inspired gardens, particularly evident in the courtyard. The house was published in World and Dwelling, a book of Neutra’s houses, in 1962. Although the house was plagued from the outset by climate issues—a not infrequent occurrence in architect-designed homes, according to anecdotal evidence—the Connells were pleased with the house and lived there until their children grew up and moved away and they began spending large periods of time in Fiji.
Richard J. Neutra
Richard Neutra (1892-1970) was one of the most celebrated and influential architects of 20th century America. Born in 1892 in Vienna, Neutra completed his architectural education in that city in 1912. Early and important influences on his architectural philosophy were Frank Lloyd Wright, whose Wasmuth Portfolios illustrating a groundbreaking emphasis on horizontality and open floor plans had electrified the European architectural community, and fellow Austrian Adolph Loos, known for his advocacy of the elimination of historicism and superfluous ornament in architecture.
The winner of numerous awards and accolades during his lifetime, Neutra was accorded the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gold Medal posthumously in 1977 for “most distinguished service to the profession of architecture”.
The Los Angeles Times marked the occasion by labeling Neutra, just 7 years following his death, as “one of the world’s great architects”. The AIA Gold Medal is only infrequently conferred. At the time of Neutra’s posthumous award, only two Californian architects, William Wurster and Bernard Maybeck, had received the gold medal; other recipients by that time included Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller, Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
In 1949, Time magazine featured Neutra on its cover and ranked him second only to Frank Lloyd Wright in American architecture.
In 1982, the MOMA held a retrospective on Neutra, describing Neutra’s legacy in the following way: “For many, the private homes designed by Richard Neutra and built in California between 1927 and 1959 represent the first truly regional, modern domestic architecture in the United States. This is particularly curious in that Neutra was, by birth, Austrian and emigrated to this country in 1923 at the age of thirty-one. Six years after his arrival he had become “another distinctly American voice, to be heard with respect in the growing international community of architects”.
Neutra was to become one of the most important architects of the modern movement, instrumental in the development of an indigenous California tradition.
Connell House is currently threatened with demolition.
As of this writing its current owners have applied to raze the monument and erect a new residence, three times its size, in its place.
For more information on Connell House, its current status, and ongoing preservation efforts go to: https://californiapreservation.org/advocacy/alerts/