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Freitag, 25. Mai 2018

Avion and Silverlake - A trip to Richard and Dion Neutra

Avion and Silverlake - A Trip to Richard and Dion Neutra

Video (2017/18)
Camera, editing, text, idea: Julia Zinnbauer
36 min.

The video entitled „Avion and Silverlake“ documents my visits to the architect Dion Neutra in Los Angeles Silverlake and also to Avion Village, a residential area located close to Dallas, Texas, that was designed by Richard Neutra in the early 1940ies. „Avion and Silverlake“ deals with my very personal approach to post-war modernist architecture. 

When during my visit to Dion Neutra I mentioned that I was on my way to Dallas in order to take part in an exhibition, he gave me a hint about Avion Village. Thus my originally short video soon turned into a roadmovie that led me to the suburbs of Dallas. 

Dion Neutra, Julia Zinnbauer

The story behind „Avion and Silverlake“
I grew up in a bungalow that was built in 1972 in the South West of Germany. As a child I did not know much about modern architecture, I simply enjoyed the large window of my room and that by opening this window I actually opened my whole room and connected it to the garden. I loved the spaciousness of the house, the fact that the kitchen, the dining room and the living room merged into each other and that you could freely move around in the rooms. I loved the proportions and most of all I loved the light. There was a feeling of freedom. Later on I found out that this spirit had been derived from the Bauhaus and also from the Californian Case Study House Program.

In 2009 I had the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles for the first time when I took part in a students exchange program between the California Institute of the Arts, the PACT Zollverein (Choreographisches Zentrum NRW) and the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. I wanted to see as many Case Study Houses as possible and thereby find out about the origins of the house where I had grown up and that was so much part of myself.

In Pacific Palisades I visited the house that Ray and Charles Eames had built for themselves in 1949. I was even so lucky as to talk to Mrs Stahl, who together with her husband had commissioned Pierre Koenig to design the iconic Case Study House Nr. 22 in 1958. I also visited the Case Study House Nr. 21 in Bel Air, designed by the same architect. I walked down the Mulholland Drive to find John Lautner's Chemosphere and finally I visited Richard and Dion Neutra's VDL Research House in Los Angeles Silverlake as well as the buildings on Neutra Place and the Neutra Office.

Julia Zinnbauer, Dallas

Soon after my trip to California, in spring 2010, I talked to the architect Dion Neutra at the opening of the exhibition entitled „Neutra in Germany“ at the Marta Herford Museum. Only some weeks later I visited Günter Pescher in Wuppertal, who together with his wife had comissioned Richard Neutra to design a home for them in 1965. All in all Richard Neutra designed two buildings for Wuppertal and unfortunately he also died there in 1970, when he was on a a lecture tour.

I know that there is not only a personal relation between me and the Californian architecture. There is also a general connection between Germany and California in the greater context of post-war modernist architecture. A large number of architects involved in the Bauhaus-movement emigrated to the United States due to the Second World War and there they refined their ideas. Therefor after the war German architects systematically travelled to America in order to learn how modern architecture works, as in their home country they had to rebuild hundreds of cities. One of these architects was Paul Schneider-Esleben for example, a typical jet-set architect from Düsseldorf. In turn, Richard Neutra visited Düsseldorf and designed a new theatre building for the city as well as a residential building for the Henkel family, who runs a large chemistry company in Düsseldorf. Unfortunately both drafts were never realized.

Bearing all this in mind, I took my camera and my tripod and visited Dion Neutra in Silverlake last summer, as I have just described. In this context he told me about Avion Village, a residential area designed by Richard Neutra, located in Grand Prairie, close to Dallas, Texas. Dedicated to the employees of Lockheed, the aircraft company close by, it was inaugurated in 1941. Neutra had invented a system of prefab houses made of aluminium and in a competition one of the new inhabitants of Avion Village managed to set up his home in fifty-eight minutes. In addition to that Neutra created the whole area as a garden city.

When I visited Avion Village I had a random encounter with a nice family who was very enthusiastic about their neighbourhood. They even drove me around by car so that I could experience the soft curves of the kidney-shaped main street. They also introduced me to the manager of Avion Village, who showed me old photos and told me about the history of the area. All in all it was very obvious that this community still works very well and that the inhabitants of Avion Village are proud of their homes.

I know that there are many more stories to be told, to be recorded and to be written down in the context of architecture. In Avion Village I realized that all this was only the beginning of a much greater story and that I have to return to los Angeles soon in order to do some more intense research about Richard and Dion Neutra.