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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


R. M.Schindler

THE ARCHITECTURE OF R. M. SCHINDLER Organized by Elizabeth A. T. Smith and Michael Darling Essays by Elizabeth A. T. Smith, Robert Sweeney, Richard Guy Wilson, Kurt G. F. Helfrich, and Michael Darling (Abrams) With such masterworks as the Schindler‑Chace House and the Lovell Beach House in California, the Vienna‑born modernist R. M. Schindler (1887­1953) is recognized as one of the most innovative architects of the 20th century. Nearly 50 years after his death, admiration for his breathtakingly original houses and apartment buildings is at an all‑time peak.

Containing many never‑published drawings and photographs and spanning Schindler's early years in Vienna, his apprenticeship with Frank Lloyd Wright, and his bold contributions to West Coast modernism, this book‑which accompanies the first major Schindler retrospective‑offers the most comprehensive view of his genius to date.

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"Active from the late 1910s to the early 1950s, R. M. Schindler occupies a place of profound significance as an innovator within the history of twentieth‑century architecture. Although his work was primarily residential and the bulk of his practice limited to southern California, he has had a pronounced impact on the course of later Los Angeles architecture and one that has extended to architects abroad…

Considered a figure of regional interest during much of his lifetime and for several decades beyond, Schindler can now be evaluated in terms of his contributions to and extensions of modernism away from an International Style orthodoxy and towards a sensibility of experimentalism and hybridization  " Elizabeth A. T. Smith

"In 1921, with the impact of California fresh on my mind, I built my own house, trying to meet the character of the locale ...I introduced features which seemed to be necessary for life i California: an open plan, flat on the ground; living patios; glass walls; translucent walls; wide sliding doors, clerestory windows; shed roofs with wide shading overhangs. These features have now been accepted generally and form the basis of the contemporary California house." R. M. Schindler, 1952

"Using deformed planes, open trays, prows, triangular projections, slanted and curving surfaces, diagonal frames, deep voids, and transparent walls and windows of all forms, R.M. Schindler created a new spatial aesthetic. Schindler's architecture not only challenged traditional forms and styles, but also departed from the received opinion about what constituted modern architecture.

Spatial complexity and ambiguity characterize his architecture; his buildings are unsettling, abstract, and nonreferential. Space for Schindler encompassed not simply the open or free plan of other modern architects, but was an active moving presence, reaching outward to embrace the landscape and circling inward in complicated patterns that could be vertical, horizontal, diagonal, and oblique." Richard Guy Wilson

SCHINDLER HOUSE By Kathryn Smith New photography by Grant Mudford (Abrams) Lauded in recent years as a 20th‑century masterpiece, Schindler House in West Hollywood was designed and built by Viennese émigré Rudolph M. Schindler in 1921‑22. Intended as a communal dwelling for the architect and his wife and another couple, and featuring open living spaces and rooftop "sleeping baskets" suited to the mild Southern California climate, this remarkable home is considered the first modern house to be built in the world.

This, the first book on the Schindler House, features new photography‑specially commissioned color images by Grant Mudford, one of the leading architectural photographers working today‑as well as many archival shots. Author Kathryn Smith incorporates new research on Schindler as she analyzes every aspect of the house's design and construction and shows why it was such a radical departure from residential architecture that came before ­and why it is one of the icons of the modern era.

"The Schindler House was designed in November 1921 by R. M. Schindler  in West Hollywood,

California. When it was completed, in 1922, it looked completed different from any other house in the neighborhood. In fact, it looked completely different from any other house in the United States.

But the importance of the house is greater than an issue of style: it was no less than the first modern house to be built in the world.  The idea of starting over with a completely fresh slate was a preoccupation of modem architects. But how did this happen so far away from the international centers of intellectual ferment and artistic revolt ‑ Paris, Berlin, and Moscow?"  Kathryn Smith 

THE ARCHITECTURE OF R.M. SCHINDLER February 25 to June 3, 2001 MOCA at California Plaza

LOS ANGELES ‑The Architecture of R.M. Schindler, the most comprehensive exhibition to date to survey the work of architect Rudolph Michael Schindler (1887‑1953), opens February 25, 2001, at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) at California Plaza (250 South Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles) and remains on view through June 3, 2001. Chronicling his career with over 100 original drawings, approximately 90 photographs, 15 scale models, and 12 pieces of furniture, the exhibition provides an opportunity to assess Schindler's contributions to the history of modern architecture and to Los Angeles.

Organized by Elizabeth A.T. Smith, currently James Alsdorf Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and former MOCA curator, and Michael Darling, MOCA assistant curator of the exhibition, The Architecture of R.M. Schindler features original working drawings, archival and new photography, color presentation drawings, original and reproduction furniture, and recent large‑scale models of key buildings. The exhibition showcases the architect’s unique sensibility of experimentalism and hybridization and spans his career from the late 1910s to the early 1950s, tracing his early days in Vienna, his move to Chicago, and, finally, to his mature works In California.

Schindler is recognized as a key figure in the history of both international and American architecture and as a model for humanistic, regionally sensitive architectural practice. He forged a unique architectural identity that mixed the industrial utopianism of European modernism with the earthbound refinements of Frank Lloyd Wright. Schindler's architecture is particularly responsive to local cultural, technological, and climatic conditions.

Schindler experimented with building materials ranging from concrete to translucent plastic and built structures in mountains and deserts, and on beaches and hills. He adopted standard building methods such as wood frame construction to achieve both greater efficiency and more expressive potential; and jumped from single‑family to multiple‑family dwellings and from commercial to religious structures with the unifying goal of matching building to client and site.

He created landmark architectural works such as the Kings Road House (1921-22) in West Hollywood, his former residence and now the home of the Los Angeles branch of the Museum of Applied Art in Vienna (MAK). The Buena Shore Club (1916‑18), located on the beachfront of Lake Michigan, was Schindler's most notable project in Chicago. The private club embodied his synthesis of his concerns of the relationship of the building to its site, the use of advanced structural materials and techniques, and an interest in complex interior spaces. His Philip Lovell Beach House (1922‑26) has long been considered a foremost example of early 20' century modernism due to its commonalties with the products of European contemporaries such as Le Corbusier and the architects of the Dutch De Stijl movement while the Kings Road House responds to a way of living in close contact with nature that Schindler perceived as particularly Californian. During the 1940s and the early 1950s, Schindler's work became increasingly expressive and idiosyncratic. The Maurice Kallis Residence and Studio (1946‑48), the Adolph Tischler Residence (1949‑50), and the Bethlehem Baptist Church (1944‑45) illustrate the range of his interests during this period.

Schindler's drawings, lent by the Architecture and Design Collection at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), constitute the core of the exhibition, as they show the architect's experimentation with form, structure, and imagery. Many drawings show marginal notations and pictorial sketches that reveal the thinking behind his creative process, while colorful presentation, drawings dramatize his vision for the final product.

The exhibition's presentation, designed by Chu+Gooding Architects, will contribute experiential clues to the nature of Schindler's endeavor, approximating the qualities of his buildings. A full‑scale construction of a prototypical beach house unit from his 1937 A. E. Rose Beach Colony project will also be fabricated for the exhibition.

Background of the architect

Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1887, Schindler was trained in art and engineering at the Technische Hochschule and the Akademie der bildenden Kunste, where he studied under Otto Wagner from 1910 to 1913. Wagner's thoughts about technology, form, and the importance of continuous experimentation as the basis for artistic solutions would underlie much of Schindler's subsequent approach to his own work.

He joined the Viennese firm of Mayr and Mayer as a draftsman while he was still a student. In 1914 he left for America to join Ottenheimer, Stern, and Reichert in Chicago where he worked for three years. Schindler joined Frank Lloyd Wright's studios in Taliesin in 1918, and moved to Los Angeles in 1920 to supervise the construction of Wright's Hollyhock House for Aline Barnsdall. In the 33 years that followed, he resided in Los Angeles, becoming a key figure in the development of modern architecture in California alongside with such contemporaries as Richard Neutra, Lloyd Wright, Julius Ralph Davidson, and Jock Detloff Peters, all of whom also pursued various strains of modernism.

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