Neutra Reunion House in Silver Lake

Front steps leading to the Neutra Reunion House.

Silver Lake -- The Reunion House -- a sleek 1950s hillside home designed by the famed late architect Richard Neutra -- has been nominated as a city cultural-historic monument.

The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission will consider the monument nomination at its November 5 meeting.

Tucked behind a “secret garden” of sorts and overlooking the Silver Lake Reservoir, Reunion House is considered a one-of-a-kind Neutra masterpiece.

“[The house] is a wonderful example of Neutra’s ‘breaking the box’ technique … and other Neutra trademarks,” said Barbara Lamprecht, author of "Richard Neutra – Complete Works," who worked on the landmark application on behalf of the Neutra Institute for Survival Through Design. “It shows his mastery in taking a very hilly, narrow site and integrating it with the building.”

Lamprecht says that the house is not only emblematic of Neutra’s style, but also was an important home base for Neutra and his family.

The house sits at a sharp incline overlooking the reservoir at the corner of Earl Street and Neutra Place. It’s one of ten houses in the acclaimed “Neutra Colony,” known to be the richest and densest collection of Neutra houses in the world.

“Each home in the Colony manipulates the architecture differently," Lamprecht said. "It was a way for Neutra to create unity and beauty in the setting, without having it be cookie-cutter.”

According to the cultural monument nomination form, Neutra was commissioned to build the house with the intent to sell it in the 1950s. In order to design it thoughtfully, he created a fictitious client. He envisioned the house as a hypothetical “grandparent’s house” where family reunions would be held. The house was built with both familial functionality and individual privacy in mind. It has become a well-known site in Silver Lake.

The Reunion House is the only Neutra project that both Richard and his son, Dion, contributed to.

Dion Neutra, Richard’s older son, became a partner in his father’s firm in 1965. In 1968 he built on his father’s work on the Reunion House by adding an apartment unit above the garage.

Father and son lived and worked in the house for a short period of time before it became Dion Neutra’s home in 1966. He lived there until his death in November of last year.

Dione Neutra, Richard’s wife, said in her oral history that father and son “spent three very happy years there,” where they added to their prolific body of influential architecture across Southern California.

The Reunion House sits near two other Neutra historic landmarks:

The Neutra Office Building on Glendale Boulevard was designated a historic-cultural monument by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission in 2000 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. It was deemed “the only surviving example of Neutra commercial work that is still intact.”

• Neutra’s VDL Research House on Silver Lake Boulevard, which served as the Neutra family for many years as well as an office and demonstration project for the architect, was placed on the National Register in 2017.

If the Reunion House is designated as a city historic monument, alterations would require commission-approved permits to do so. The body also has power to delay demolition of a designated property for up to one year.

“It was quite the home base for the Neutras, and it really is a special place for a lot of people,” says Lamprecht.

Rebecca Katz is working in audio journalism in LA. She just received her masters from USC in journalism and documentaries and lives in Silver Lake.

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