Tuesday 11 December 2012

The Schindler-Chace House Today

Today, the Schindler-Chace House is used as a public centre for art and architecture. It is owned by the Friends of Schindler House (FOSH) and is operated by the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/ Contemporary Art, Vienna (MAK). The house was restored by FOSH to its 1925 condition in the eighties with the financial aid of the city. The north sleeping basket built by the Neutras was left, but most of the other changes made by the Schindlers over their lifetimes were scrapped in an effort to bring forth once again Schindler’s original intent.

The house was the first modern California house built to respond to the climate of California and use it to its advantage. It set the precedent for post-war California Houses, the iconic one story dwelling with an open floor plan and a flat roof, which opened to the garden through sliding doors while turning its back on the street ("MAK Centre Los Angeles" ). It was largely ignored for the better part of its lifespan, due to its audacious originality and Schindler’s refusal to advertise it. Only after Schindler’s death was his work finally both appreciated and understood. This is what the MAK Centre tries to emulate in its exhibitions and principles. 

The context of the site has greatly changed since the 20s. West Hollywood became more and more dense as the years wore on, and four-storey apartment buildings started to dominate the landscape. The open, expansive lots that were first built upon are no more, and the house is now surrounded by development. When the house was slated for restoration, some suggested that it be relocated in the desert since its surroundings had changed so much. However, the general consensus was that the house stood on its own, indifferent to the buildings next to it, so it stands today on its original site. 

The house is open to the public for tours and events are regularly held. The exhibitions at the centre are used to promote dialogue and question boundaries, a principle that Schindler preached and practiced and is evident in the Schindler-Chace House ("MAK Centre Los Angeles" )

A map of the immediate neighbourhood around the Schindler house

Schindler's Other Projects

The following collection of photos shows Schindler's other projects after the completion of the Schindler-Chace House. 

Plan of El Pueblo Ribera

Plans of the How House. 1925

Elevations of the How House

Plan of the Lovell Beach House


Gebhard, David, ed. The Architectural Drawings of R.M. Schindler. New York: Garland Publishing, 1993







Monday 10 December 2012

Artistry Accommodated

The Schindler Chace house acted as the perfect blank canvas for creative types to thrive. The removable walls and seamless transition to the outdoors provided the perfect space for them to host events. Amazingly, the house could transform from the quiet refuge of a studio to a gallery overnight. A flexibility many houses at the time didn't have. The fact is, creative types were drawn here, perhaps because of the lifestyle in the house, or perhaps because the house respected the needs of an artist. Either way, 835 North Kings Road has been more than accommodating to the creators that have lived there over the years. 

The following is a short summary of the brilliant people that have had the pleasure of living at the SCH. The years of stay are noted. 

Announcement for a talk on modern art at the Schindler House 

Rudolf Schindler (1922 - 1953)


Richard Neutra (1925 - 1930)

Architect, Schindler's friend turned rival, lived in the Chace portion with his wife

"I am an eyewitness to the ways in which people relate to themselves and to each other, and my work is a way of scooping and ladling that experience." - Richard Neutra 

Dione Neutra performing at the Schindler House  1928

Dione Neutra (1925-1930)

Richard Neutra's spouse

Musician and performer at Kings Road House

Dione on Schindler: "Schindler was such an individualist... Mr. Neutra always believed that prefabrication would eventually have to be the road for the architects.. but Schindler was very much interested in space exploration, so all his houses were - each house was again completely different, and designed for a particular space."

Pauline Schindler (1922-1927/ Late 1930's - 1977)
Rudolf Schindler's spouse

Talented graphic and typography designer, editor, writer, teacher, toymaker
Loved to host events at the house, sponsored lectures and exhibited
Ran local leftist newspaper called Carmelite
Interested in painting, theatre, and dancing

Galka Scheyer (1931-1933)

"Recalling Happy Memories" by Peter Krasnow
Galka Scheyer lecturing on the Blue Four at the house
Modern art dealer and American representative of The Blue Four (the painters Vasily Kandinsky, Alexei Jawlensky, Paul Klee, and Lyonel Feininger)
Referred to Schindler as "Five" in reference to his comparable talent to the modern artists
Lectured at the house

 John Bovingdon (1928)

Remembered for the haunting performances he performed in the gardens when the Schindlers hosted large parties.

Bovingdon, 1928 


 Edward Weston (1930)


John Cage (1934) 

Music composer

Clyde Chace (1922 - July 1924)


Marian Chace (1922 - July 1924)

Clyde Chace's spouse

The house wasn't like any other because it didn't conform to the trend of consumption. Rather it promoted one to produce. The structure was a piece of art, and quite frankly, it inspired its lucky inhabitants. 

Sunday 9 December 2012

Sunday Parties for Free-Thinkers

  A view of the courtyard where social gatherings were held

The outdoor space of the Schindler-Chace house offered a beautiful setting for high spirited gatherings. These courtyards were vast in green land and offered a welcoming ambiance with their open fires. This was how Schindler intentionally designed the courtyards; they were meant to be social spaces. Visitors came and went on a constant basis, some staying a month, a year, or more. The amount of infamous personalities passing through the house was extraordinary. Friends of the Schindlers who were avant-garde in the arts, education and politics were welcomed during Sundays’ open house to join for dinner. When there was a large number of guests, the sawhorses would be brought out. Planks stored on the roof were taken out to set over them to make for tables and on boxes to make for seats. Events were often held in this way as well, whether it was a Bohemian dress-up party, or for a Thanksgiving celebration. 

Thanksgiving at Kings Road, 1923

The most memorable event during these Sunday parties was John Bovington’s dance recital. Along with his companion, Jeanya Marling, they danced in scanty attire, or a lack of thereof. Dione Neutra described these occasions to be sublime, for they would illuminate the garden at night. For music, they would hit gongs which were hung on ropes. Beginning with crawling, the two performers would slowly evolve from lower animal forms to the ultimate human. As they finally stood erected on two legs, they continued to move in trance. For the audience, this was the most thrilling portion of the night.

Schindler's home, 835 North Kings Road, often served as a venue for
performances and presentations

There was always a mixture of people, extending from the most provincial to the most liberal. What was happening was the realization of Pauline’s wishes. She had previously confessed to her mother, "I should like it to be as democratic a meeting-place as Hull House where millionaires and laborers, professors and illiterates, the splendid and the ignoble, meet constantly together."  The conversations that occurred between the diverse group of guests during these special occasions were nothing short of worthy discussion about revolutionary ideas in all fields. Arguments never escalated to aggressiveness and guests were always encouraged to bring their friends to join in dialogue. The rooms and courtyards of the house had freed everyone’s expression in this way. 

Works Cited:
Sarnitz, August. R.M. Schindler: Architect, 1887-1953 A Pupil of Otto Wagner, Between International Style and  Space Architecture. Rizzoli International Publications Inc., 1988.
McCoy, Esther. Vienna to Los Angeles: Two Journeys. Santa Monica, California, Arts + Architecture Press, 1979.
Darling, Michael, and Smith, Elizabeth A. T. The Architecture of R. M. Schindler. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001.
Crosse, John. Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism, 1927-1936, Southern California Architectural History. Last modified 2010. Accessed December 8th, 2012.
Fonck, Arnoute. Schindler-Chase house by Rudolf Schindler, 2007.

The Sleeping Baskets

The sleeping baskets further defined the influence of nature in the house. The experience of camping at Yosemite National Park, can be compared to the experience of sleeping in one of these sleeping baskets. 

“For sleeping he provided the sleeping baskets. Architecturally they consisted of a canopy and beams that met at four posts at mitred corners... Visually, they were planes supported on spider legs.”

 Kathryn Smith, Schindler House


Smith, Kathryn, and Grant Mudford. Schindler House. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001.

The Anomalous House

Schindler had a fascinating approach to early modern architecture, he was ahead of his time. His ideals were different and thus, his house was too.

Light play through window
The Schindler-Chace house was revolutionary because it experimented with the absence of a central heating system. (Hines, 244) While 1920's technology allowed for a comfortable mechanized indoor climate, the Schindlers opted for fireplaces. (Hines, 244) The Schindlers and Chaces adapted to a lifestyle that conditioned them to minimize the bodily discomforts of the cool Los Angeles evenings, not only in the exposed rooftop sleeping baskets, but also in the unheated studios after the fires died.(Hines, 244) The camping lifestyle became more than just a temporary approach to life in Yosemite. It became a lifestyle choice that grew inside Schindler himself, and as any house should be, it became a reflection of life.

What makes 835 North Kings Road unique is Schindler's bohemian design. A graceful aura is captured by the structure, from the way insulite panels are "few, thin and removable," to the adaptive furniture. (Smith, Darling, 124) The house's studios adapt to its users requests. Unlike other homes of the era, many rooms had no default program. The studios are left bare so that a novelist, artist, draftsmen or anyone else could find them accommodating for a creative lifestyle. (Smith, 21) The user is free to turn the space into whatever they want. It's utterly breathtaking that the simplicity of these rooms is so hospitable. Today we adapt rooms for certain needs, add vents, shelves and other built-ins to push a program, to promote a certain type of work, but all we need is the bare essentials. Schindler understood that. He simply made space, and let one breath in it.

Bathroom with concrete bath and counter
The simplicity of the house is hauntingly beautiful. It's meant to embody the idea of mans original home: the cave. (Smith, Darling, 124) The repeated slit window openings, clerestories and redwood framed window walls allow light to dance from the outside into the interior. The bathroom even has one of these slits,  allowing light to illuminate the sink. (Smith, 57) Schindler used poured concrete to match the wall to form the bathtub and vanity, completely unadorned.(Smith, Darling, 124) He opposed the idea of lavish porcelain fixtures. (Smith, Darling, 124) What he wanted to achieve was an indigenous, cave-like feel. Even the fireplaces were left minimal. Instead of a large hearth separated from the ground, Schindler's fireplace sits right on grade, allowing the flames to rise right from the floor. (Smith, Darling, 124) These are just a few of the details that display Schindler's ideas of a modern home, "a timid retreat."

The Schindlers stated that the house was intended to free them of a traditional work day, yet  the house nonetheless required a lot of maintenance. (Smith, 21) The work required had to do with the way the house was built. The wooden surfaces were untreated, and the thin slits of glass fixed between concrete were always victim to cracking. (Hines, 244) To the Schindlers, the idea of a house was grounded in the belief of constructing in a minimal or no refinement approach, or as Pauline Schindler liked to put it, "the essences." (Hines, 244) The essences avoided the practicalities of proper detailing. (Hines, 244) As a result, the house was always under threat from the elements.

The 1922 house was otherworldly for the time, it didn't conform to social expectations of a home. The Schindler Chace House uses a simple material palette and it promotes a simple life through lack of luxury. Yet at the same time, the inhabitants live lavishly knowing that they've got a completely original home. 

The Schindler Frame

The Schindler Frame

Balloon Frame construction was developed in the late 1880’s, and was beginning to become the most popular construction method in the United States. Schindler, along with Frank Lloyd Wright, embraced the construction process and its presence was dominant in all of their projects. The Schindler Frame, first written about 1947, eliminated a multitude of structural makeshift details, simplified contemporary home building by cutting all of the wall studs to a standard door height, and in order to achieve a greater height in the space, a multi layer roof assembly was eliminated in favour of a tongue and groove plank which provided a greater span and height, and clerestory windows were incorporated into the design. Basically two-thirds of the frame was the wall assembly, and the remaining third, was the roof. Schindler “set out seven points which lead to qualities of space that are tied to his innovations in conventional wood framing”:
  1. Large opening in walls
  2. Varying ceiling heights
  3. Low horizontal datum
  4. Clerestory Windows
  5. Large overhangs
  6. Interior floor close to exterior ground
  7. Continuity between adjoining space units

However in the Schindler Chace House, the one-third two-third rule only applied in the theoretical composition, not in the actual construction. For example, in the Schindler Frame design, the low horizontal datum would have been 6’-9” high, however in the house it only reaches 6’-3”. The overall height of the house is 8’-8”. The division of the framed window wall are at 12” not at 16”, which would have followed the one-third two-third module.

“Schindler’s exposed frame construction of ribs and lines is the genesis of his system of spatial geometry that he would articulate in about twenty years.”
Kucker 185

In the studios, the 45 inch wide concrete panels were framed with redwood, which further divided the 4 foot module in half with the spacing of roof joists and vertical members. “Paired Beams” allowed for a lower ceiling and suggest divisions within the room. 

“Another L-figure is formed by the comparatively lightweight redwood timber frame of roof and walls completing Schindler’s consistent attention to the relationship of geometry and material assemblies with an end toward modulating space, climate, light and mood.”
Kucker 185

Pauline Schindler Studio. Paired beams are on the top right


Kucker, Patricia. "Framework: Construction and Space in the architecture of Frank Lloyd Write and Rudolf Schindler." The Journal of Architecture Volume 7 Summer 2002. (accessed December 8, 2012).www.bolender.com/Frank%20Lloyd%20Wright/Files/Framework%20Summer%202002.pdf