SILVER LAKE — The Modernist homes designed by architect Richard Neutra rise across many of the hillsides of Silver Lake. On Sunday, April 27, the neighborhood will remember the legendary architect with the Neutra Institute’s 4th Run/Walk For Health and tours of several Neutra designed homes, including his acclaimed VDL Research House. While Neutra fans will be working up a sweat in support of the architect’s legacy, Neutra’s son, Dion Neutra, will be seeking support to re imagine the Silver Lake Meadow, which is across the street from the VDL House, to honor his father and what the institute describes as the “ecologically kind and philosophically-based Neutra design principles.”
Neutra, who followed his father’s footsteps into architecture, has no control over the meadow, a public green space which sits next to the Silver Lake Reservoir. But that has not stopped Neutra from dreaming. His plan imagines the expanded meadow as an Ecology Garden, as he calls it, that would include a nature retreat and educational center. A 100-foot geyser recalls Yellowstone National Park’s ‘Old Faithful’ and a memorial area recalls Yellowstone’s early proponent, conservationist, John Muir. In fact, a Memorial Wall envisioned by Neutra features glass-enclosed busts of various other pioneers of the environmental movement, such as Teddy Roosevelt.
When Richard Neutra built the first version of the VDL House in the early 1930s, the home sat only about 100-feet from the water’s edge. But a redesign of streets and infrastructure in the 1950s pushed the boundary of the reservoir much further away from the house the Neutra family called home. Dion Neutra’s plan for the Ecology Garden also calls for restoration of the VDL House’s connection to the water – “a strip of water extending from the street under the house all the way to the lake,” he said.
It’s not clear if any of these ideas will ever be realized. In fact, as the city’s Department of Water & Power prepares to temporarily drain the reservoirs, other community members and groups have proposed their own ideas for the reservoir and surrounding area, including one that would turn it into a beach and outdoor swimming pool. Would an ecological garden bring too much traffic? Will the proposed construction bring an unwelcomed nuisance? Or is a an ecological garden something Silver Lake’s conscientious community would welcome?
Click here for a schedule of Sunday’s 4th Run/Walk For Health and house tours.
Marni Epstein Epstein is an entertainment, music, and lifestyle Journalist and resident of Echo Park. She has previously worked in the film and digital media industries with FOX and Sony Pictures Entertainment. She is currently also pursuing a Masters in Historic Preservation.