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Where Nature Meets the Built World

Inspiring Curiosity Through Design

Located in Los Angeles, California, the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences is the creation of renowned Viennese-American architect Richard Neutra. With a zero interest loan from Dr. CH Van Der Leeuw, a Dutch philanthropist, Neutra built the house, naming it the VDL Research house in honor of Van Der Leeuw.

The space was a radical structure with floor to ceiling glass walls, and gardens on the rooftop and balcony. A ruinous fire in 1963 destroyed most of the structure, but Neutra and his family took it as an opportunity to redesign the main house, incorporating elements like louvers, or sets of angled slats or flat strips, to shade from the sunshine and water roofs for rainwater retention to employ design practices of “nature-near” and physiologically motivated design.

Neutra is widely recognized for his modernist architecture. In fact, he was described in TIME Magazine as “second only to Frank Lloyd Wright.” 

Today the space is under the stewardship of the College of Environmental Design and Department of Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona. Noam Saragosti, resident director of the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences, took a moment with us to talk about the decision to take this historic space virtual, inspiring curiosity in others by sharing such architecture. He concurrently teaches architecture at Cal Poly Pomona.

 

Q: What inspired the 3D capture of the Neutra VDL House?

A: When I assumed the role of director in April, the house had already closed to the public due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Perhaps ironically, I wanted to strengthen the VDL’s mission of accessibility and inclusivity. I had used Matterport captures professionally in architecture practices as a surveying method, and was always impressed by their accuracy and quality. I thought that scanning the house and providing an online walk-through could be one way of addressing accessibility. 

I reached out to Matterport and they offered to send one of their Capture Technicians at their expense - and of course, I accepted!

The goal isn’t to replace the physical experience of visiting the house, but to supplement it. Even once we can safely reopen the VDL, the 3D capture will continue to offer access to those who can’t travel to LA, but have an appreciation for the house.

Q: What are the “must-sees” you want visitors to explore and why. 

A: The house has many spaces and details to appreciate. As you move through the scan, you’ll notice a layering of interior and exterior spaces, ranging in scale, lighting conditions, and materials. If I had to narrow down my personal favorite spaces, they would be the 2nd floor living space and the rooftop penthouse. Both spaces are iconic yet generous. They’re both oriented with views towards the Silverlake reservoir, have ample natural light, connect seamlessly with outdoor terraces, and integrate built-in furniture as part of the space. 

Q: What’s the one thing you want visitors to take away after enjoying the historic landmark?

A: I hope that each “journey” through the scan could be personally enriching for the visitor, as it is IRL (in real life), with the take-away of appreciation for this place. I hope that appreciation would spark a curiosity to learn more about Richard Neutra, about the tradition of modernist architecture in southern California, and about architecture in general.

Q: Is the Neutra VDL House currently closed to the public due to the Coronavirus outbreak? How can readers support the arts during these unprecedented times?

A: The Neutra VDL House is currently closed to the public due to the Coronavirus pandemic until further notice. The house is owned by Cal Poly Pomona University, where I teach, and we are abiding by the University’s protocols to ensure the safety of the public and the students, who normally give the tours. Readers can support the Neutra VDL during this time in several ways: visit our website, share your knowledge of the house with friends, donate, and follow us on social media. 

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I’d like to thank Matterport for their support!

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