AD Classics: Lovell House / Richard Neutra

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The 20th Century was one of the most inspiring and progressive centuries for the discipline of architecture; was one such contributor that has left his mark on modern architecture with his advancement of residential design.  Prior to the Kaufmann House, Neutra design the Lovell House for Philip Lovell and his family in Los Angeles, California between 1927-1929.  The Lovell House was the turning point in Neutra’s career, putting him on the architectural radar.

More on the Lovell House after the break.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Lovell House was designed for the active, health conscious Lovell family in the hills of Los Angeles.  The house is an early example of the International Style in the United States that evokes principles that were developed by Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright.  The house consists of a series of overlapping planes that do not stick to Wright’s proportionality; rather they are a hybrid of Wright’s planar devices combined with Le Corbusier’s stark, streamlined aesthetic.

The house clings to the side of a steep cliff; it is perpendicularly suspended to take on the panoramic views of Los Angeles.  Since the house is suspended perpendicularly, the volume of the house is disconnected from the street, which is bridged by a concrete walkway that brings the inhabitant into the upper level of the house, which is the living quarters, and issues them down a large staircase encased in glass that leads into the living room and to the pool outside.

Courtesy of Wikiarquitectura

The lower level of the house, the living room, follows an open plan that leads out to the patio and swimming pool.  It’s outside near the pool that one begins to understand the spatial organization of the overlapping planes and the pilotis that support the cantilevering volumes.

The Lovell House is reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s style and aesthetic. The stark while walls stand out among the wooded terrain; the ribbon windows offer expansive views and a significant amount of light to enter the interior spaces.  It’s clear that Neutra was influenced by the International Style and Corbusier’s villas, so much so that the way in which one enters and moves through the house is similar to Corbusier’s architectural promenade; however rather than ending at the roof garden the occupant moves from the top of the house towards the patio and swimming pool on the lower level.

Courtesy of Wikiarquitectura

The Lovell House is claimed to be the first house in the United States to use a structure that is typically found in skyscraper construction – Neutra learned these new techniques when he was working in New York and with Holabird & Roche in Chicago.  However, the construction is not just supported by columns, beams, and pilotis, but it is only part of the structural system of the house.  Because the house is suspended on the side of a cliff, it is tethered to  the cliff by a tension cable that is tied into the rocky terrain. The house’s construction is rather interesting in addition to the structure integrated with tension cables; the house is actually one of the first uses of gunite [sprayed-on concrete].

Courtesy of Wikiarquitectura

The Lovell House is an architecture of firsts, which gave rise to Neutra’s International fame and introduced the Lovell House as an architectural landmark.

Architect: Richard Neutra
Location: Los Angeles, California, United States
Project Year: 1927-1929
Photographs: Wikiarquitectura, Wikimedia Commons

This building is part of our Architecture City Guide: Los Angeles. Check all the other buildings on this guide right here.

Cite: Kroll, Andrew. "AD Classics: Lovell House / Richard Neutra" 18 Jan 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 17 Sep 2014. <>


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    Richard Neutra has designed a primary example of modern architecture through the possibilities of the new materials such as steel, concrete, and glass. With these materials, new forms and styles emerged; specifically a style that was expressive of its own. Because of the new materials, Viollet-le-Duc in his theories mentioned that the 19th century needed to develop its own style that is appropriate to the new social, economic, and technical conditions. To do that, the designer during the first stage of design must consider the purpose of the building he is designing. In other words, in the Lovell House, it is intriguing to see that the form was developed based on its location, function, and layout (one of the attributes of modernism).

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    The process of Lovell House been accepted also reflect how modernism design transformed from a “nobody” into a common style that been generated accept. The split that modernism brought is not against history but to encourage architects focus more about thinking and care more about the need from the people who actually active in the building rather than keep repeat the history. With creating for public by improve their living quality, the public also selected modernism. Architects may build innovative buildings like the Lovell House based on a theory such as Modernism, but the public’s need determine the theory’s rise or demise.

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    The house has a simplified form and lacks decoration, maintains balance without strict symmetry, remains transparent and displays its structure, and takes advantage of mass-production techniques, all fundamental features of the International Style. The way the Lovell House manages to maintain an aesthetic of balance without being symmetrical is impressive. The cantilevering floors look similar to Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Fallingwater” which also shows nice balance. The house suggests a combination of Frank Lloyd Wright’s use of planes and a sleek aesthetic seen in Le Corbusier’s work. The exhibit of Modern Architecture occurred in 1932, before the Lovell House. Neutra’s Lovell House was used by Johnson and Hitchcock to determine the aspects of International Style. Richard Neutra was not a man who followed a predetermined list of the requirements for modernity, he was a man who inspired and developed the International Style of Modern Architecture.

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