December 10, 2015

Architectural Tour: Schindler House Los Angeles

Los Angeles is home to a great concentration of cultural & architectural icons, but sometimes we don't realize what we have sitting under our own nose. Design junkies that we are, it's such a treat to stumble upon one of those special places when we least expect it.

During a recent walk down Melrose Avenue, in the heart of West Hollywood, I ventured down Kings Road, which is one of the most beautiful streets in that neighborhood. It's tree-lined, mostly residential, and the quaintness is out of sync with the traffic & bustle nearby. It was on this detour that I noticed a small sign for Schindler House. I was not hugely familiar with R. M Schindler, but I did know the name as a pioneer in the modernism era, so I had to investigate further.

What strikes you first is that you would never know a historic home is located on this quiet and serene street, never mind in the middle of the city. It's set back from the street, behind a fully mature bamboo hedge, with just the small sign proclaiming its' existence. 

Schindler House Los Angeles, or the Kings Road House, as it is commonly known, was built in 1922 and was actually considered to be one of Schindler's most important works. It is considered by many to be the first house built in the modern style, and was experimentally built for communal living, housing another couple besides the Schindlers. 

The lot was divided into seven sections; four of them were assigned to each of the four inhabitants of the home, to express their own individuality and there was a shared kitchen and outdoor sleeping areas (on a rooftop deck). The structure draws upon European modern architecture (Schindler was Austrian) and, like many European buildings of that time, incorporated concrete, glass and wood in the construction of the home. This had become a popular trend in Europe thanks to Mies van der Rohe's work in experimental concrete buildings in the 1920's. 

The residence was used for political, social and cultural events during the time they lived there, and it was also used as housing for visiting artists, architects and writers (Frank Lloyd Wright and his son, Lloyd Wright, were frequent visitors). I can only imagine how astounding the guest list must have been during those days. The Schindlers eventually divorced, but the house continued to be a meeting place for left-wing political radicals in Los Angeles. 

Today, the house is maintained and funded by the MAK Center for Art and Architecture Los Angeles at Schindler House. There are year-round events and exhibitions and programs geared toward the creative arts. When we were there, we were lucky to be treated to a small Eames exhibit.

Schindler House is located at 835 North Kings Road, West Hollywood, CA 90069. It is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday, 11 am - 6 pm, and admission is $7.00.

It is well worth the visit.

Images: Top photo via MAK Center for Art & Architecture Los Angeles. All other photos my own.

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