Richard Neutra is alive and well and can be found in Bradford!
Well, to be more precise, Richard Neutra’s furniture designs can now be seen for the very first time in Britain here at the Home.
Neutra was born in Vienna in 1892 and studied engineering and art as well as architecture and became an excellent draughtsman. This skill stood him in good stead when he emigrated to America in 1923. He initially worked for Frank Lloyd Wright but as work in the Wisconsin office began to dry up, Neutra continued his journey west and settled in Los Angeles just as Hollywood and the film industry boomed. He executed commissions of over 300 private homes and for many of these projects he also designed the interiors and furniture. In 1949, Time magazine voted him the second most influential architect and designer in America – first place went to Frank Lloyd Wright himself.
Neutra was fortunate enough to have been born into an intellectual Viennese family whose circle included distinguished architects and designers of the time, such as Adolf Loos and Erich Mendelsohn (the latter later moved to England and designed the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea). He was clearly influenced by early Bauhaus designs and philosophies but, in America, developed his own design language which has lasted as very “modern” right up to today. Not surprisingly, his houses are still used as modern or futuristic film sets, often liked by directors because their large expanse of glass means that filming can be done with natural light. More than any other designer, he embodies the spirit of American Modernism. Indeed, in 1932, he was the only West Coast architect to be included in the New York Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition “Modern Architecture” which celebrated the new American style united with European design which became known as “The International Style.”
Richard Neutra lived long enough to work through the great Hollywood days, the post war mid century modernist era, the early Rock & Roll years and the swinging 60s but his work really remains timeless and his furniture designs will doubtlessly now become significant icons. In fact, he never intended that his furniture would be commercially produced, rather made as individual pieces for specific projects. However, his son, Dion, has now collaborated with a European furniture maker to produce these designs to a very high quality standard and using the best and most appropriate materials these.
The “Lovell” easy chair was originally designed with a chromed tubular steel frame and wooden arms. Later, the frame was made entirely of wood. This chair is now being produced to its original specification, following the drawings that Richard Neutra made in 1928 and which are now housed in the University of California, Los Angeles archives. With its matching footstool, this must surely be one of the most comfortable and relaxing chairs in the world.
The “Boomerang” chair was designed for the Branch House in 1942 and somewhat ahead of his time, Neutra’s idea was to prepare blueprints for people to make their own furniture out of off-cuts of wood and other bits of building materials. Whilst this chair was created to go around a sunny Californian swimming pool, it could be just as at home in a Yorkshire living room.
In these days of media coverage of the great North – South Divide, it’s refreshing to learn that, once again, the north leads and Yorkshire is the first venue for Neutra’s designs to be seen in Britain.