Thursday, October 27, 2016

Will Silver Lake honor architect Richard Neutra with a 100-foot geyser and an Ecology Garden?

Click to view larger version of Ecology Garden | Courtesy Dion Neutra

By Marni Epstein

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.

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  1. So very ironic, since Dion Neutra spent years opposing the creation of the ‘Meadow’. I wouldn’t let him put his hands on it, given that history.

  2. Honestly, based on some of the ‘other’ ideas for the res at large being tossed around, ill take anything that includes a bathroom and does not include a fake beach/waterpark.

    at least this design aspires to something beyond more utopia and less idiocracy.

  3. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this looks like it would replace much of the existing meadow with a parking lot, a water fountain, memorial walls, etc.

    Which begs the question, has Dion Neutra ever even stepped foot in the meadow? It’s an active part of the community, with much needed flat green open space for people to relax and enjoy a nice afternoon. Filling it in with all sorts of architecture would take away from it’s intended purpose.

    Sounds to me like someone needs to check their ego at the door.

    • In complete agreement with “corner soul” here. The meadow is a wonderfully under-programmed space that allows people to use it however they see fit (except for allowing them to bring their pets, of course). This proposal looks like something out of the 50s, taking that great space and turning it into a fountain and parking lot. Gross.

      If people really want to go there and there’s a parking lot, it’ll overflow in minutes and be a traffic nightmare for Silverlake Blvd. And if the space isn’t desireable, at least it’ll have succeeded in alleviating and traffic concerns, but at the expense of a space that right now gets a lot of usage and is a wonderful addition to the community.

      Aren’t there other spaces in Silver Lake that could use improvement? Why take one of our community’s few green space successes and turn it into this?

    • Unfortunately, clicking on the illustration leads to a dead end, so I can’t verify exactly what’s being proposed for the Meadow. I would object to the removal of usable space – places where people can run and fly kites or just sun bathe. I do support the planting of native flowers, bushes and trees, and maybe a water feature, if not too large. If I’m reading the small image correctly, he’s proposing the expansion of the Meadow to the service road, which I would support. I hate the idea that someone wanted to preserve the little collection of evergreen bushes and prevented more land to be used for the Meadow’s construction. But I can’t understand where the walking path is, based on the illustration. Is he proposing the use of the service road at the reservoir’s edge? Until someone can post a link to a larger image, I can’t say yea or nay.

  4. I hope they put fountains, or water sprays in the lake when it is refilled or redesigned. Something like in Echo Park. The look and sound of water is so civilized.

  5. as long as there is room left for people to do yoga….

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