The World Monuments Fund recently announced the addition of Cal Poly Pomona's Richard and Dion Neutra VDL Research House II in Los Angeles to its 2000 World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites.
The list identifies cultural heritage sites considered urgently at risk and seeks funds for their rescue. This year's list consists of nine sites in Africa, 21 in Asia and the Pacific, eight in the Middle East, 13 in Western Europe, 24 in Eastern Europe, 10 in North America, five of which are in the United States, and 15 in South America and the Caribbean.
Located on the Silver Lake reservoir, the Richard and Dion Neutra VDL Research House II, was built in 1932 and rebuilt in 1966 after a tragic fire. The radically "modern" creation of European architect Richard Neutra was funded partially by Dutch industrialist Cornelius H. Van der Leeuw (VDL). It was donated to Cal Poly Pomona after the death of Neutra's widow, Dione, in 1990. The College of Environmental Design currently uses the house for teaching courses on the early California modernists, 20th century architecture and restoration techniques.
"The Richard and Dion Neutra VDL Research House is still looked at as one of the
reasons California and Los Angeles are so highly regarded in the world of architecture," said Linda Sanders, dean of the College of Environmental Design. "Neutra was part of a group of Los Angeles architects world-renowned for residential and commercial architecture.
"Neutra challenged himself to think outside the box. He looked for features that would have a use beyond what they were designed for and the VDL House is a prime example," said Sanders. "His belief that each design represented an opportunity to make a biologically sound and eminently livable environment is articulated in his book, Survival Through Design."
The VDL House is vital to the education of architecture today, but it is not without its problems. The house is in desperate need of funding for projects such as asbestos removal, updating electrical systems, repairing termite damage and replacing doors and windows. Being recognized as one of the World Monuments Fund 100 Most Endangered Sites is an important step in receiving crucial funding.
"The World Monuments Fund's Watch is a bold challenge to local and national authorities to step up their responsibilities -- and an appeal to the public to take immediate action -- to save these irreplaceable sites that define the history and the humanity of the peoples of the world," said Bonnie Burnham, president of the World Monuments Fund. "Once these sites are lost, they are gone forever. They are the very definition of the word irreplaceable."
Born in Austria, Neutra was fascinated with the architectural future in the United States and immigrated to this country in 1923. He worked in New York, Chicago and Wisconsin before settling in Los Angeles where he designed and built the original VDL House in 1932. The house represented Neutra's progressive design approach and the latest in technology. He used the house as a living research building for showcasing the latest in "modern" architecture.
After a fire destroyed the house in 1963, Neutra and his son Dion rebuilt the structure and revived the house's original research theme while also introducing some 1964 innovations and materials.
Last year the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs granted the house monument status. Combined with recognition as part of the World Monuments Watch, this will contribute greatly to the restoration of this architectural landmark. For more information, contact the Cal Poly Pomona College of Environmental Design at (909) 869-2667.
Public Affairs Offices/Campus News