ARCHITECTURE CLASSICS: KAUFMANN VILLA

One of Richard Neutra’s iconic designs in California is the Kaufmann Villa in Palm Springs. Completed before 1950, the Kaufmann House was meant to be a retreat for Edgar J. Kaufmann and his family from the northeastern harsh winters.

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Richard Neutra is one of the icons of modern architecture. Today he is remembered mainly by modern style houses built in Southern California between 1925 and 1950, but during his illustrious career, Neutra signed about 300 projects under his own name. Despite being born in Wien, he had many influences from outstanding worldwide figures in the architectural world nowadays. Adolf Loos, Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolf Schindler or Robert Evans Alexander are example of this.

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Being pupil of Frank Lloyd Wright can be noticed at the Kaufmann Villa by the harmony between human living and the natural world, a matter of design considering sympathetically and well integrated the building, furnishings and surroundings with a site becoming part of a unified, interrelated composition. This is what is called Organic Architecture in design.

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Its raison d’être was a winter refugee for the drastic cold of the north-east USA. Any contemporary environmentalist would tell how unsustainable this glass container could be in the middle of the desert, however, this is what its aim was: looking for sun radiation. Thereby, the most private aspects of the house are oriented east-west while the most public parts are oriented north-south. Among the strategies used by Neutra, design in cross distribution of housing allows each of the wings had maximum daytime lighting and good ventilation.

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Balance, independence and landscape could be the main features to articulate the whole set. The flows are arranged precisely so that the coexistence of the inhabitants happen in these shaded galleries interconnecting spaces, characterized by having considerable independence respect to the housing. The swimming pool is one of the most iconic and recognizable aspects of the Kaufmann House by its landscaping role; it is not solely a photographic gem or simply a recreational feature. It is all about compositional balance of the overall design.

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Surroundings and building make a whole ensemble. This is why limits between interior-exterior are not clear, not only because of the open concept but by the furnishing and materials choice: the Utah stone and the International Style ones like glass and steel. All them, along with the low horizontal planes bring the house closer to the landscape making it appear as if it is hovering above the ground.

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Architecture can be told as immutable, but it is said that the user scales Architecture to its own living. Thereby this meant to Kaufmann Villa several modifications that were a lack of concern and preservation. Nowadays it has been restored to its original luster with the help of Julius Schulman.

Could you imagine yourself spending every January in this breathtaking desert design?

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  1. Bellissimo articolo, bellissime immagini. Neutra ha saputo fare propri i principi di quell’architettura rigorosa e al tempo stesso poetica proposta da wright. La linearita’ come decorazione nel suo esempio più alto. Al confronto lo stile contemporaneo è vecchio ed obsoleto.

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