One night in 1934, the Oscar nominated director of Shanghai Express, Josef Von Sternberg, stayed up far too late into the evening with Richard Neutra, whom he had commissioned to design his home, because he couldn’t stop speaking passionately about the intersections between film and architecture. This was not an atypical moment, though, in the life of the Richard Neutra. Meetings with Universal Studio executives, with the surrealist director Albert Lewin, with the Hollywood elite of the era—Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, and Mae West—Richard Neutra hardly lived the life of an average architect.
It was in his Strathmore Apartments, now a featured property at the Value of Architecture, where Orson Welles and Dolores Del Rio began their very public love affair. At Strathmore, Neutra could allow his creativity to truly run wild, as he funded the project himself, and used it as a palette for his more avant-garde urges. Inspired by the Pueblos of the southwest and 20th century garden courts, Neutra sought to fuse public and private life. Even though there is the open garden in the center, Hollywood royalty used it as a getaway. The actress Lily Latte told her partner Fritz Lang—director of the groundbreaking film, Metropolis, to never contact her there because it was her refuge.
Neutra was known to have deep relationships with his clients. To them, he wasn’t just an architect—he was their therapist, confidant, and friend. They would open up to him about their personal lives and he would listen, using these conversations as the backbone of his work. Because of these numerous relationships he had, and of course his designs, which live on today, he’s a large part of Los Angeles history. It’s truly hard to imagine Los Angeles without Richard Neutra’s influence.
By: David Plick