Could this design from the Housekeeping Campground Map in Yosemite Valley be the original inspiration for LA architect Rudolf Schindler’s radical home design on King’s Road? (See our post Sun-worshipers and Free-thinkers.) As Schindler describes it, the home “… fulfils the basic requirement for a camper’s shelter: a protected back, an open front, a fireplace and a roof…”( ‘A Co-operative Dwelling’ , T-Square, February 1932).
In 1921 amidst the falling oak leaves of September and October Rudolf and wife Pauline enjoyed an idyllic few weeks in camp shelters in Yosemite Valley. Having just terminated his employment with Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolf and Pauline planned their modern life and modern home in Los Angeles. Four independent and utilitarian studios conjoined in a communal relationship would provide a background for work and play. They would be joined in this experimental four-plex by housemates and friends Clyde and Marian Chace.
On September 15th, 2011, we were featured at the “Modernizing Your Space” series at Design Within Reach during San Francisco’s Architecture in the City Month. We took the opportunity to clarify what we do and value in modern design.
A sea change occured in home design and life style in mid-century California as promoted in the work of Schindler, Neutra and the Case Study House program and popularized by Eichler planned developments and ranch style homes. Providing modern and positive values of casual living and connection with the sun and outdoors, suburban home production flourished in an anti-urban, auto-based culture made concrete through asocial town planning. These mid-century modern designs were sensitive to personal comfort and environment, but they were insensitive to the environment at a community and global level with sprawling development actively replacing positive neighborhood and urban pattern.
Established commuter rail lines, like the Red Car lines in LA, were ripped up for freeway right of ways promoted by the oil and auto industry. Downtown buildings were demolished for parking lots and block-style housing projects with a misguided idea of how to re-populate urban cores.
Photographed in LA in 1931, barefoot Galka Scheyer adopts a modern attitude in the sundrenched window of Rudolf Schindler’s revolutionary Kings Road House which proposed new arrangements for living and working, defining what it means to be modern, at least in California.
The classic farmhouse form of this gold rush era home can be described in a few words: a gable house wrapped by a porch.
The two shapes, gable and porch, can be described with hand gestures. The shape is simple and common, lodged in our shared memory and dreams. Its commonness confirms its comfortable familiarity and borrows from past associations with similar homes, with farms, porch swings.
The colossal spans of Parisian rail stations witness a time of technological breakthrough looking back at a historical sense of proportion and delicacy while looking forward to the new scale of the industrial age with its efficiencies of mass production and big box warehousing. Through this temple of arrivals and departures have passed daily commuters, returning loved ones, and deported Jews. Unable to assume a moral position on passing events–right or wrong–the station has effectively assumed a positive position on history and society, ennobling the passage of time and people without judgement of the circumstances.
Preservation today offers provocative questions about the value of creating monuments to wealth, power and fashion. Instead alternatives present time as a continuum and not simply a period, and consider history as something that is not owned but shared by all.
At Drayton Hall Plantation outside Charleston centuries of paint and furnishings are stripped away. The empty rooms become more memorial than museum. Without the distractions of furnishings and personal memorabilia, the mind wanders through history to a time when fields of slaves and tobacco supported a family home. The home becomes haunted by one’s own reflections on time’s passage and the ghosts of southern history.